Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beaver Fill-in-the Blanks

Beaver Fill-in-the-blanks – adapted from National Geographic  
Beavers are famously busy, and they turn their talents to re-engineering the landscape as few other animals can. When sites are available, beavers burrow in the banks of rivers and lakes. But they also transform less suitable habitats by building d _ _ _.
 Felling and gnawing trees with their strong t_ _ _ _ and powerful jaws, they create massive log, branch, and mud structures to block streams and turn fields and forests into the large p_ _ _ _   that beavers love.
Domelike beaver homes, called l_ _ _ _ _, are also constructed of branches and mud. They are often strategically located in the middle of ponds and can only be reached by u_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   entrances. These dwellings are home to extended families of monogamous parents, young kits, and the yearlings born the previous spring.
Beavers are among the largest of r_ _ _ _ _ _. They are h_ _ _ _v_ _ _ _  and prefer to eat leaves, bark, twigs, roots, and aquatic plants.
These large rodents move with an ungainly waddle on land but are graceful in the water, where they use their large,   _ _ bb_ _ rear feet like swimming fins, and their paddle-shaped tails like rudders. These attributes allow beavers to swim at speeds of up to five miles (eight kilometers) an hour. They can remain underwater for 15 minutes without surfacing, and have a set of transparent eyelids that function much like goggles. Their f_ _ is naturally oily and waterproof.
There are two species of beavers, which are found in the forests of North America, Europe, and Asia. These animals are active all winter, swimming and foraging in their ponds even when a layer of ice covers the surface.

American Indians called the beaver the "sacred center" of the land because this species creates such rich, watery habitat for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. We now know that beaver d_ _ _ _ _ g   provides essential natural services for people too.
Beavers reliably and economically maintain w_ t _ _ _ d _ that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods (because their dams keep water on the land longer), lessen erosion, raise the water table and act as the "earth's kidneys" to purify water. The latter occurs because several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down by microbes in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, w_ _ _ _   downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment for human use.
By the early 1900s, beavers were almost extirpated from North America, Europe and Asia due to t_ _pp_ _ _   and the subsequent dr_ _ _ _ _ _  of lands for agriculture. Estimates of the current North American population are as low as five percent of those present prior to European settlement.
Literary note – In Larry McMurtry’s novel, Buffalo Girls, a trapper from the Old West, traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, goes overseas to  London; his only sightseeing wish is to go to the London Zoo to see a beaver, where:

“…he heard a sound he had not heard in many years, the slap of a beaver’s tail on water. …it was a sound he had first heard on the Platte as a boy of sixteen; it was the sound that had called him on, deeper and deeper in to the west, to the Missouri, and then to the Yellowstone, all the way to the dangerous Bitterroot and the Tongue, then it became a sound he heard less and less often as the beaver vanished…the last time he had heard the beaver’s sound was more than ten years before. He had listened for it in vain ever since – but here it was, at last!”
Beaver by Steve Jordan
Learn more about beavers from Dr. Jessica Healy at her presentation, Leave It to Beaver, for Second Saturday,  February 13, 10 am at Hagerman NWR.

ANSWERS: dams, teeth, ponds, lodges, underwater, rodents, herbivores, webbed, fur, damming, wetlands, water, trapping, draining

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's Happening at Hagerman This Month?

By Helen Vargus

Just in time for a busy month,  Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge  announced last week that Wildlife Drive and the low water crossings are once again open, as the early winter flooding has ended.  All hiking trails are also now open.  Come enjoy the best that nature has to offer!

Home Sweet Home to many critters!
Youth First
Youth First is back for 2016!  On Saturday, February 6, 2016, from 10:00 am – 11:30 am join us as we learn about trees and the critters that make their home in trees. 
Youth First activities are held the first Saturday of every month and are open to children from ages 4-12.  These activities are free and open to the public with advance registration. This assures plenty of supplies will be available for each child.
            You may register as a Friends member, or as a guest. If you choose to become a member, please do so before starting the registration process.  Registration is currently open to Friends of Hagerman members and those who set up a guest account. All registrations must be completed by Thursday, February 4, 2016, at 4:00 pm. You may register online at  If your plans change after you have registered, please let us know.
Our Youth First groups will be held at two different locations at the Refuge,  based on the child’s age. Children ages 4-7 will meet in the Visitor Center Meeting Room and are to be accompanied by an adult. Children ages 8-12 will meet in the Friends of Hagerman Building and may be dropped off and picked up at the start and end of the session or may be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.  Look for the signs that will direct you to the FOH Building. 

Photo by Bill Powell
Each year Cornell sponsors the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This year’s Citizen Science event is set for February 12 - 15, 2016.  Backyard birders can participate by counting birds in their own backyard or you can come to Hagerman NWR and take part in our bird count.
Master birder Dr. Wayne Meyer, Professor of Biology at Austin College, has agreed to lead a Great Backyard Bird Walk at Hagerman NWR from 8 - 9:30 am on Saturday, February 13.  To join the walk, participants must meet Dr. Meyer at the  Refuge Visitor Center  by 8 am.  Come dressed for the weather.  Bring your binoculars or borrow ours at the Nature Nook.  Birds counted during the walk will be reported to GBBC.   In the case of rain, the event will not be held.

Photo by Mary Karam
Second Saturday
            “Leave It to Beaver” will be the topic for Second Saturday on February 13. The program will be from 10-11:30 am at the Visitor Center at Hagerman NWR.
Dr. Jessica Healy, Assistant Professor of Biology at Austin College will give us the facts about this hardworking mammal.  A beaver’s dam in a healthy, freshwater stream helps create wetland habitats that support an array of unique plants and animals.
Each month Second Saturday programs are held at the Visitor Center.  The programs are free and no registration is required.

Hagerman NWR Turns 70 in February - watch for details on the celebration, which is set for 2 - 4 pm, Sunday, February 21.

Color-In for Teens, Grown-ups, at Hagerman NWR
Coloring isn’t just for kids!  Hagerman is sponsoring a Color-In exclusively for Teens and Grown-ups on Sunday, February 28, from 2:30-4:00 pm.  If you love to color or want to reconnect with your inner child, join us for a relaxing afternoon of coloring at Hagerman. Coloring is a great way to be creative and reduce your stress level.
The program is free; no registration is needed. Bring your own supplies or use ours. We have nature-themed pages to color, crayons, and colored pencils. We also have an assortment of nature-themed coloring books for sale in the Nature Nook book and gift shop at the Refuge.

Photo by Tom Judd
Tram Tours
            Hop on the Carlos and Eulalia Cardinal Express for a 60 - 90-minute tour along Wildlife Drive at the Refuge.  Guided tours will be offered in February on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 PM, weather permitting.  This is an open-air tram, so dress for the weather.  The tours are free but donations to the tram maintenance fund are welcome.  
Call 903 786 2826 for reservations as seating is limited.  Volunteers cannot access messages on the Refuge phone system.  To make a reservation, please speak to a volunteer from 9 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday and 1-5 pm on Sundays.  Standbys will be accepted on weekends if space permits.   No dogs other than service animals allowed on board the tram.

            Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas.  The Visitor Center is open from 7:30 am - 4 pm Monday- Friday, 9 am  -  4 pm on Saturday and from 1-5 on Sunday. The grounds are open year-round from sunrise until sunset unless otherwise posted.  The Refuge Office/Visitor Center is closed on all federal holidays and will be closed on Monday, February 15 for Presidents Day.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rain Be Gone!

By Kathy Whaley

As this is being written, the sky is blue and the wind is howling a brisk, cool breeze. Even with the wind, the blue skies are a very welcomed sight! Taking a look back at Hagerman NWR in 2015, the first thing that comes to mind is all of the water we had to endure. In May alone, the refuge recorded 28.51 inches of rain. Compared to all of 2014 (23.56 inches) that was A LOT of rain! Most all roads were closed from early May through mid-August.

June 1, 2015 - Photo from Refuge Files
Then, a couple of days after Thanksgiving, the roads flooded again and have been closed all but a few days since then. 
Flooding approaches accessible loop of Harris Creek Trail, January 6, 2016
The good news is that Lake Texoma will be below 620 msl (mean sea level) soon (the elevation of Wildlife Drive) and is expected to reach its normal winter pool of 617 msl on January 31st.  Click to follow the changing lake level (information from the US Army Corps of Engineers).

What will the rest of winter and this spring look like? We are waiting anxiously to find out. According to (the website used by the Corps of Engineers to obtain weather forecasts), temperatures for the next three months are expected to be near normal while there is a 40% chance of above normal precipitation. Then, according to a January 14th report from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the strong El NiƱo currently in place is expected to gradually weaken through spring 2016, and to transition to more normal conditions during late spring or early summer. Let’s keep our fingers crossed they are correct!

A few things we know for sure: 1) we can’t control the weather; 2) the Corps does their best to release as much water as possible during periods of flood, but they must take into consideration downstream conditions which sometimes means we are flooded longer than we wish we were; 3) eventually, the water level will return to normal, debris will be removed from refuge roads, and needed repairs will be made. The refuge staff would like everyone to know they have missed having their regular visitors on Wildlife Drive and are happy to have the road cleared and open once again!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Begin to Bird

Most every day I sit at my kitchen table and observe the birds who gather at our backyard feeders.  According to, I am a birdwatcher – a person who identifies and observes birds in their natural habitat as recreation.

In an article about Birdwatching on Wikipedia, we find that

“The term "birdwatching" appeared for the first time as the title of a book "Bird Watching" by Edmund Selous in 1901. In North America, the identification of birds, once thought possible only by shooting was made possible by the emergence of optics and field identification guides. The earliest field guide in the US was Birds through an Opera Glass (1889) by Florence Bailey.”

The article goes on to state that for years birdwatching in America was popular primarily in the eastern seaboard states.   The combination of more readily available binoculars following World War II and automobile helped spread birdwatching and increased travel to view birds.

A study by U.S. Fish & Wildlife  is cited by Wikipedia as estimating that currently 20% of Americans are birdwatchers.

On two Saturdays, January 23 and January 30, you can join the 20%! Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will offer Begin to Bird.  The first session will cover choosing birdwatching equipment and the second will cover identification keys to birds common in our area.  You can register online, call the Refuge, 903 786 2826,  or just show up at 10 am in the Visitor Center Meeting Room at the Refuge.

Then, on Saturday, February 13, you can practice!  The 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count is set for February 12 - 15 this year, and Hagerman and the Friends  will hold a GBBC Walk, led by Dr. Wayne Meyer, at 8 am on that date, weather permitting.  Participants will meet BY 8 am at the Visitor Center and return in time for the Second Saturday presentation.

In case you are wondering, the term birdwatching can be all inclusive or may be used to describe the casual hobbyist v. “birder”, whose approach is more serious and includes keeping multiple lists, a collection of field guides, the latest optics, and travel to see specific birds. (

Backyard Bird Photos by Dick Malnory

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Get Outdoors More….with help from the Interagency Pass Program

By Jean Flick

During the cold of winter, many of us turn our thoughts to summer travel plans. The Interagency Pass Program enables many US citizens and permanent residents the opportunity to enjoy the natural wonders of a variety of federally managed lands at minimal expense.

Three of these passes are available at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, including the Senior Pass for those aged 62 or over ($10 for a lifetime pass), the Access Pass for US citizens with permanent disabilities (free), and the Annual 4th grade pass, free for the child and family during the year that each child is in the fourth grade and the following summer. 

Additional passes include the Annual Pass for US military (free) and the Annual Pass for anyone ($80 for one year).

Six agencies participate in the Pass Program, including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. Effective January 1, 2016, the US Army to Corps of Engineers was granted the authority to be a full participant. Passes typically allow free admission to federal sites overseen by these agencies and may include substantial discounts on some activities such as camping, boat ramp use, and swimming.

The National Park Service oversees 409 areas, including national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks and sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic trails and rivers, and the White House.

The US Forest Service manages 193 million acres of vast scenic beauty, including national forests and grasslands. These public lands include 10,000 developed recreation sites, as well as alpine ski areas, heritage sites, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and more than 150,000 miles of trails.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service preserves habitat and protects wildlife on 150 million acres of national wildlife refuges, as well as more than 418 million acres of national marine monuments.

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for a variety of national conservation sites, including 223 Wilderness areas with over 8.7 million acres in 10 western states. These areas are “special areas where the earth and its community of life are essentially undisturbed.” Areas are open for certain forms of recreation, but permanent changes to the land are not permitted, to preserve the integrity of the wilderness.

The Bureau of Reclamation is tasked with managing water in the West and has projects in 17 western states. The reclamation work of the Bureau has resulted in the development of 289 areas with developed recreation areas including campgrounds, boat ramps, and opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the number one federal provider of recreation in the US, with 400 lake and river projects in 43 states, including our own Lake Texoma.

America the Beautiful awaits...there is something out there for everyone...go to or for more information.

  • There is no charge for admission at Hagerman NWR.   
  • Senior, Access, and Annual 4th Grade Passes are available at the Refuge Office, during regular business hours Monday - Fridays, 7:30 am - 4 pm.  They are not available on weekends or federal holidays.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Resolve to Go Wild at Hagerman NWR

It is not too late for New Year's Resolutions!  And we have some suggestions for you, for 2016, starting in January at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge:


Opportunities in January - Hear Dr. Peter Schulze, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Austin College, speak on the importance of prairie and the Prairie Restoration program conducted as Hagerman's neighbor, Sneed Prairie. 10 am, Saturday, January 9, in the Visitor Center at the Refuge. Free nature programs are offered on the Second Saturday of each month; see our calendar for more opportunities.

Take a guided auto birding tour around the Refuge with Texas Master Naturalist Jim Varnum on Saturday, January 23.  Meet Jim at the Visitor Center at 9 am; bring a brown bag lunch and make a day of it, ending at 2 pm.  You will want to bring binoculars, field guide and optional - camera.

OR - learn to identify birds at Begin to Bird, with Dick Malnory.  This two-part class will meet from 10 am - Noon on January 23 and wind up  during the same hours on January 30.  You will learn  keys to bird identification as well as how to choose binoculars, field guides.  Meet in the Refuge Visitor Center.  Please call the Refuge to sign up, 903 786 2826, or register online.

Learn more about native plants and butterflies and train to become a Butterfly Garden Docent. Orientation will be held at 10 am on Thursday, January 28 in the Visitor Center.  Docents help visitors who come for Garden Walks and group tours identify plants and butterflies and explain the mission of the garden and the plant-wildlife connection.


Graphics artist Jesus Moreno will lead a workshop on using Lightroom CC software, from 10 am - 3 pm  on Saturday, January 16.  Seating is limited for this free workshop and Friends of Hagerman Nature Photo Club members get first dibs on registering, but any places open after January 9 are up for grabs.  Eager beavers can join the club and register ASAP! Use CONTACT for workshop details.


The Youth FIRST program at HNWR will resume on February 6, with Who Lives in a Tree.  Registration is open now for this event.

And - you know what - if you also resolved to get your budget in shape for the New Year, all these programs are FREE!

See you there!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reminder About Firearm Regulations at Hagerman NWR

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is an overlay of Lake Texoma lands owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Laws and regulations governing Corps lands are in effect on the Refuge.

Firearms are regulated on Corps of Engineers property by Title 36 of the CFR which governs public use of Corps' water resources development projects (attached). The applicable section is 327.13 which states:
(a) The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited unless:

(1) In the possession of a Federal, state, or local law enforcement officer;

(2) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under 327.8, with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting and fishing sites;

(3) Being used at authorized shooting ranges; or

(4) Written permission has been received from the District Commander.

With this existing law in place, all firearms including those carried either openly or concealed with a concealed weapons permit, are prohibited on Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge lands and in the Visitor Center.  With the new Texas open carry law going into effect on January 1, 2016, it is important that everyone be aware of this law.