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Offbeat Fun at National Wildlife Refuges across America

Several tons of antlers collected at the refuge will be auctioned off at Jackson's Elk Fest in May 2014.
Several tons of antlers collected at the refuge will be auctioned off at Jackson's Elk Fest in May 2014.
Mike Pfiel/USFWS

For those who like the offbeat over the tried and true, three one-of-a-kind events on national wildlife refuges could be worth a special trip this spring.

Take the Montezuma Refuge Challenge!

Are you tough enough to complete a course of six fitness and conservation events set out by this upstate New York refuge? Hike five miles, paddle 10. Ski or snowshoe five more. Volunteer eight hours. Attend five public refuge events. Keep a nature journal or photo album.

The Discover the Refuge contest opened in April, 2014. All activities must be done at the refuge. Don’t worry if the snow’s melted. You have a year from when you start to complete all course goals. Competitors are on the honor system. Register and get your card punched each time you meet a contest task. The prize? A tee shirt listing your feats.

The contest was conceived by Visitor Services Manager Andrea VanBeusichem. “I wanted to motivate people to do more than attend festivals,” she says. “When you sign up, you make a commitment to keep coming. It’s something anyone can do, by yourself or with family or friends.” For more information call 315-568-5987.

Elk Fest, Jackson, Wyoming from Staurday & Sunday May 17-18, 2014

Where else but in Jackson, Wyoming, can you see four tons of elk antlers displayed and publicly auctioned each spring in a lively outdoor celebration?

The antlers are collected as they drop off, starting in March 2014, from wintering elk at National Elk Refuge, up the road. The Jackson District Boy Scouts receive special permission to help refuge staff and volunteers collect the antlers, to deter poachers and reduce damage to refuge vehicles. The scouts also help bundle, weigh and tag the antlers, which are sold in small lots.

Antlers fetch an average $10 a pound. The average haul from auctions over the past 10 years has been about $85,000. Eighty percent of the auction proceeds are donated by the Jackson District Boy Scouts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for elk management and habitat enhancement on the refuge. For more information click here.

Concert on the Prairie, Neal Smith Refuge on Friday, June 6, 2014

Sway with the refuge’s native prairie tallgrass. Celebrate music, art and nature on the open prairie at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, 25 minutes east of Des Moines. This second annual event features music by a Caribbean steel band, a tasting of local wines and an exhibit of art, photos and literature by Iowa artists.

After the evening concert, enjoy a guided twilight walk on the Overlook Trail. Tickets are $40, click here to purchase. Proceeds will help refurbish and upgrade educational displays in the refuge’s Prairie Learning and Visitor Center.

Did you know? It's a fact that the "National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska."

Nevertheless, public animals refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Discover many more events on national wildlife refuges here.

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