Holder's Hideaways: Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge

Holder's Hideaways: Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge

LAWTON, OK (KAUZ) - Located just west of Lawton, the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is an oasis of sorts.

Rising above the Oklahoma land around it, not only is it a refuge for various species of animals but also people wanting to get away.

"We're out here today with my daughter and her friend and my other daughter. We decided to have an adventure day, I got a half day off of work so we normally come out here and I let them pick and choose where they want to go and we just drive," Roger Garza said.

Established as a forest preserve in 1901 by President McKinley, it wasn't until 1936 that Congress renamed the preserve the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.

Today the refuge spans around 60,000 acres of land and is one of the 556 wildlife refuges across the country.

Only 20,000 acres of land are open to the public but the animals that inhabit the refuge are free to roam across the entire 60,000 acres.

The park contains around 650 bison, 250 longhorns, and around 1,000 elk and deer.

While the animals are a big attraction for visitors, they also give researchers a chance to study the herds up close according to Quinton Smith, a park ranger at the refuge.

"Bison herds are now managed for DNA and so all of our bison have a chip in their ear that gives up what their DNA make-up is. So when we're running our animals through and working them, we're able to pull up what animal it is and what DNA strand it has. And what we're going to do is try to keep the animals with the rare alleles and rare DNA," Smith said.

Smith says the wildlife refuge is a great place to observe and photograph wildlife, fish, and hike on the 12-15 miles of hiking trails but gives a few things to remember while visiting the park.

"The animals are dangerous, it's their space. Respect their space and give them the room. If you come out to hike in the heat of the day make sure you're packing lots of water, taking lots of breaks, and shading up as often as you can," Smith said.

One of the biggest attractions at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is Mount Scott.

Standing at 2,464 feet in elevation it's the second tallest peak within the park grounds itself.

From the top, it gives you great views of Lawton, Fort Sill, and the surrounding wildlife refuge area.

It is August and if you don't feel like getting outside in the heat, the refuge has an air conditioned visitor center that gives you an overview of the park plus miles of paved roads to use to explore the park in the comfort of your vehicle.

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