Seventy-five years ago, the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established, and today serves as a home to some of the United States’ most precious wildlife resources. Set for October 5, 2013, a birthday celebration is planned to commemorate the establishment of the Refuge and to highlight the refuges’ history and success as a natural resource management demonstration project. Hosted by the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association, the 75th Anniversary Celebration will include guided bird-watching field trips and nature hikes, children’s nature programs, bird banding, arrowhead making, lasershot games, hot air balloon tethered rides, archery, and hay rides.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the celebration will provide festivalgoers with multiple opportunities for natural resource exploration through demonstrations, hands-on activities and field trips onto refuge lands. The Alabama 4H Center will have three presentations of Raptor Trek!, a very popular live bird of prey program featuring free flying owls, hawks, and a bald eagle. Show times are at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.
Larry and Cheryl Battson, founders of Wildlife Educational Services will present their live wildlife program in three scheduled programs at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. They have worked with Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and their animals have appeared on television programs such as The Tonight Show, Oprah, and the Today Show.
The Teddy Roosevelt Show featuring Joe Wiegand entertains audiences nationwide with his reprisal of President Theodore Roosevelt. As a one-man theater show, Joe’s T.R. shares stories full of adventure, laughter, and inspiration. T.R. will be presenting at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the event. He will also be visiting area schools prior to the Saturday event.
Additional planned activities include a Castingkids Contest presented by Bassmasters of North Alabama; Jakes Take Aim target shooting/firearm safety presented by the National Wild Turkey Federation; and Lasershot Game presented by Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Other demonstrations include archery, flint napping, bird banding, hay rides, face painting, hot air balloon rides and a corn maze. Exhibitors including Alabama Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, TVA, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Natural Resource and Conservation Service, Alabama’s Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Resource conservation and Development Council, and the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association also will be on hand to share information. All activities and programs are free to the public.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 by Executive Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an experiment to determine the possibility and feasibility of attracting migratory birds onto a multipurpose impoundment. Soon after, ducks began wintering on the refuge and the project was deemed a success. Today, the refuge hosts over 600,000 visitors annually who come to fish, hunt, and observe wildlife in its natural setting. Covering 35,000 acres, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. The Refuge also supports the state’s largest concentration of Sandhill Cranes. For more information on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, visit www.fws.gov/wheeler.
The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 3121 Visitor Center Road in Decatur. For more information on the 75th Anniversary Celebration, visit www.friendsofwheelerrefuge.org.