Trinity River Refuge Volunteers draw a crowd at National Night Out
LIBERTY, October 10, 2014 – Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge would like to thank the many organizations who volunteered their time in assisting the Refuge staff at National Night Out. Thirteen Liberty High School students from Mrs. Taylor’s Class, Mrs. Jones’ Class, the Interact Club and 1000 Club, as well as Kody White from the Liberty-Chambers County Adult Probation Office, and 7 Refuge volunteers came together to show off many education ambassador animals and lead night hikes down the Knobby Knees Trail.
Liberty High School volunteers Camilla Brady and Christina Martinez showing off educational rats, Dottie and Coco, at National Night Out.
The students from Liberty High School took turns holding the many animals and showing them off to visiting families. For many children, this was the first time them touched a slick frog, rough toad, or a smooth snake. Many of the children also enjoyed petting the down feathers of a mallard duck. Several brave children even took advantage of the chance to hold a mallard duck, a pair of rats, and a gulf coast ribbon snake. At one point, one the ducks flew off, but luckily it circled back and the high school volunteers were able to recapture it! It was definitely up there with as much fun as watching a calf scramble.
Refuge Volunteers, Francis Oster and Pick Dibbern, remarked, “It was a wonderful opportunity to share information about the Refuge. Maps set out on easels drew attention from adults and the small menagerie of live animals attracted children like a magnet. The whole experience was an excellent outreach opportunity to give the Refuge a face. The work that national wildlife refuge do is important and if folks understand the work or effort, then they might come to appreciate the Refuges more.”
The night hikes were led by Refuge volunteers, Ashley Chattle, Andrew Townsend, and Sandy and Jeff Fletcher. The volunteers led hikers on short hikes onto the adjacent Refuge, starting and ending at the Knobby Knees Trailhead in the Liberty Municipal Park. The volunteers not only shuttled hikers to the trailhead and lead the hike, they also created sensory experiences in which they discussed nocturnal animal senses. They used frayed rope to demonstrate the silent wings of an owl for hunting, scent stations to test hikers’ abilities to identify scents in the dark, articles in a bag to test hiker’s abilities to identify items by touch like raccoons, discussed the shape of animal ears to locate and identify sounds in the dark, and finally, they let visitors use a night vision scope to experience animals’ increased ability to see in the dark.
Ashley Chattle, Refuge Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Intern smiled as she recalled the event, “It was really great to see people getting excited about nature and the forest in a new way. Both parents and children seemed to really enjoy each station. It was also really cool to see people getting over their fear of snakes and spiders. Some people were pretty nervous about potentially encountering snakes and spiders and we did! If we encountered one of these anxiety-causing animals, we stopped and talked about the animal and its place in the ecosystem. This seemed to reduce some fears.” Ashley was also impressed by the knowledge the children demonstrated at the activity stations. She even mentioned how one small child talked about how some snakes sense prey via the presence of a heat-sensing pit organ located between the eye and the nostril on either side of their heads.
Trinity River Refuge is thankful and appreciative for all the work volunteers do to help the Refuge in its mission to conserve wildlife and habitat. If you would like to be informed of future volunteer events or would like to create a group service project on the Refuge, please call Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge at 936-336-9786, or visit the Refuge Headquarters at 601 FM 1011 on Governor’s Road, across from the Sam Houston Regional Library.
By Laurie Lomas Gonzales, Refuge Biologist