Posted by Janet Harriett on Jul.13, 2010
Zoos are a fun way to get young children excited about exotic wildlife and natural conservation, with convenient amenities. In July, Wildlife Wednesday thinks outside the zoo for other venues to teach kids about wildlife. This week, forget the exotic zoo creatures and check out native wildlife with wildlife refuges.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service operates 552 National Wildlife Refuges, with at least one in each state, which you can find with the handy zip code search on the Fish and Wildlife Service website. Though the primary purpose of wildlife refuges is habitat restoration and preservation, National Wildlife Refuges provide educational and special programs, as well as opportunities for birdwatching and nature photography, and, if one is so inclined, hunting and fishing. Walking trails and driving tours are available at some refuges.
Wildlife refuges are set up to protect and preserve habitats and the native plants and animals. On a trip to a wildlife refuge, kids can see the fish, birds, flowers and plants that occur naturally in a habitat. Invasive non-native plants are carefully removed from the areas. Because only native wildlife is preserved in a refuge, each refuge offers a different assortment of wildlife. Hillside NWR in Mississippi has snapping turtles. Clarks River in Kentucky preserves unique bottomland hardwood habitat. Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR in Texas was established for the endangered Attwater Prairie Chicken, but hosts about 50, mostly nocturnal, mammals. Not all wildlife refuges are in the middle of nowhere; some urban refuges, like San Diego Bay NWR, are in cities, and others are just a short drive from urban areas.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides plenty of resources for kids, including printable coloring books on conservation and wetlands habitat. The website even has some wildlife photography tips for kids.
A few of the refuges charge entry fees, and other charge fees for certain activities like hunting, fishing or ATV use, but most of the areas and activities are free.
Article By: Janet Harriett
Profile: Janet Harriett, Green Diva Mom's fomer editor, has been a writer and editor for print and online media, specializing in education and environmental issues since 1999. She lives on 2 acres in central Ohio with her husband, a 275-square-foot backyard garden and a home orchard growing 25 varieties of fruit. Janet holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.
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