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. Rescheduled for December 7, the 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 bird banding, arrowhead making, hot air balloon tethered rides (weather permitting), archery, corn maze 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 and hands-on activities. The Alabama 4H Center will have two 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. 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.
Additional planned activities include a Castingkids Contest presented by Bassmasters of North Alabama and Jakes Take Aim target shooting/firearm safety presented by the National Wild Turkey Federation. Other demonstrations include archery, flint napping, bird banding, hay rides, hot air balloon tethered rides (weather permitting) 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. Food and drink will be available for purchase throughout the day.
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 and is the winter home for a small population of the endangered Whooping Crane. 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.