USA: United States Fish & Wildlife Service - "Howl"-O-Ween Fun Abounds on National Wildlife Refuges.
It is dusk, the Saturday before Halloween. Dozens of adults and children stand on a gravel road, surrounded by the trees and wetland bogs of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. They are silent; listening intently. If they are lucky, they will hear it-the sound of a red wolf calling in the distance.
The howl is the sound from a bygone era when red wolves populated much of the southeastern United States. By 1980, red wolves were declared extinct in the wild, decimated due to intensive predator control programs and habitat loss. Under a recovery plan developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners, red wolves were bred in captivity and reintroduced in 1987 on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Today an estimated 100 to 130 wild wolves populate the refuge and five surrounding counties.
Waiting to hear wolf howls in the dark woods may seem spooky to some, but most peopleon the "Howling Safaris" are thrilled by the sound, says Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition, an education and advocacy nonprofit organization that schedules and leads the tours on the refuge. "People are just amazed," Wheeler says. "Red wolves are very rare to see in the wild. To be able to stand there and have them answer in a
howl is very cool."
The safaris begin with a talk about the history of red wolves and the reintroduction effort. Participants caravan in their cars over a gravel road to a site within the refuge, and Wheeler lets out a howl to provoke a red wolf response. Later, children and then all the participants have a turn to let loose their own howls.
It's not every night that the wolves respond, but when they do, it's like tapping into their phone network. "When wolves howl, they're identified by their pack members," said Diane Hendry, outreach coordinator for the Red Wolf Recovery Program at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. "Their voices are just as different and identifiable as ours are to each other."
The Red Wolf Coalition offers the free "Howl-O-Ween" safari as well as safaris throughout the summer for $5 per person. This year's Howl-O-Ween will convene at the refuge parking lot at 7:30 PM, Oct. 24. Need to Know: Reservations are required. (1(252) 796-5600 or www.redwolves.com
The "Howl-O-Ween" safari is one of several Halloween events offered at national wildlife refuges across the country. For those seeking a different take on the season, other national wildlife refuges offer fun and educational alternatives:
New York/New Jersey: Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge - Creatures of the Night.
Visitors get to know the wild animals that come out after dark at "Nocturnal Creature Night," October 25, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, bordering New Jersey and New York. Refuge staff and volunteers dressed in costumes as nocturnal animals are stationed along a nature trail. Guided tour groups meet and learn about each animal - what they eat, who their predators are, why they look the way they do. And each animal character hands out a Howl-O-Ween treat reflective of its own diet. (The fox offers rat-shaped lollipops, and the moth caterpillar provides maple leaf candy, for example.)
The 24 costumes were created by Marie Springer, founding president of the nonprofit Friends of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Springer launched Nocturnal Creature Night nine years ago, and she adds more animal costumes each year. "I try to make the costumes as realistic as possible so the people wearing the costumes can really teach about that creature," she says, explaining that the firefly costume's abdomen lights up and that the male and female moths have different antennae indicative of their genders. Need to Know: Reservations for the one-and-a-half-hour guided tours are required. (201-660-8880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
) Montana: Bitterroot Valley - Campfire Gathering.
In Montana's Bitterroot Valley, families are invited to "Get Wild at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge" on Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. at the Visitor Center. Participants will gather around a campfire to learn about the various nocturnal creatures that make their homes on the refuge, including owls and snakes. (1(406) 777-5552) Massachusetts: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge - Bats and Spiders.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, MA, offers a spider program for preschoolers and a bat program for children 6 to 9 years old. Both programs feature crafts and close-up looks at spiders or bat skeletons. The preschool program includes songs and games. "We try to dispel some of the myths about these animals and get people a little more comfortable with them," says Supervisory Park Ranger Kate Toniolo. (1(978) 465-5753 or www.fws.gov/northeast/parkerriver
The National Wildlife Refuge System, encompassing 548 national wildlife refuges across 97 million acres, is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information about the Refuge System, go to www.fws.gov/refuges
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov