by Nova C.
October 12 – 18 is National Wildlife Refuge Week and here in the Monroe area we have some wonderful wildlife refuges to celebrate. The first National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt at Pelican Island in Florida. When he established it, the refuge was only 5 acres and the purpose was to protect birds from plume hunters. You may have seen pictures of ladies with those fancy hats from back then, well those decorations came from birds including egrets and herons like what you see around Monroe today. That refuge is now more than 5,000 acres and is one of 562 spread throughout the United States.
Louisiana has 24 National Wildlife Refuges scattered across the state protecting diverse environments and a variety of species. We actually have the 2nd National Wildlife Refuge ever created, Breton National Wildlife Refuge off the coast. It was established in 1904 and is the only one that Theodore Roosevelt actually visited. In this area we are fortunate to have some pretty amazing refuges for you to explore.
The North Louisiana Refuges Complex consists of 5 refuges including Red River over in Bossier City. In Monroe we have Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge and just north of us are D’Arbonne, Upper Ouachita, and Handy Brake. If you head a little ways east you can visit Tensas National Wildlife Refuge and if you are really lucky see a bear. Heading north into Arkansas are ever more refuges including Felsenthal.
Refuges have a lot of roles. Foremost refuges were established to provide habitat for migrating birds and a lot of them are along the fly-ways. In conjunction with that they provide habitat for a variety of species – animals, birds, plants, fish, and insects included. There are a lot of different folks who work on the refuges from foresters and biologists to the law enforcement and visitor services and the folks who are a lot times behind the scenes but essential, our maintenance crews. Once the primary mission of the refuges has been secured, we also manage for human use including: hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, bird-watching, photography, education, and interpretation. If you are hunting make sure you have our rules and understand them before you hunt.
To celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, we invite you to join us on October 18th at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge for the Friends of Black Bayou annual Fall Celebration. It will be from 10 am-3 pm and has fun for the whole family including a turtle release, canoeing, building bird houses, the turning of the goose, folks from the Children’s Museum and Masur Museum, the zoo and our own critters plus free food. Celebrate with us and come out and enjoy your wildlife refuges.
Nova is the Education Specialist and Refuge Ranger at the Black Bayou Lake NWR in Monroe, LA.