Got summer plans? There's lots going on national wildlife refuges

WASHINGTON D.C. (USFWS) - Want to try something wild this summer? You don't have to go far or spend a bundle to do it. National wildlife refuges are teeming with out-of-the-ordinary seasonal events. The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been called America's best kept secret. Many Americans have never visited a wildlife refuge or know what they're missing, even though there's a refuge within an hour's drive of most major U.S. cities.

Here is a sampling of summer events on National Wildlife Refuges:   Join the Bitterroot BioBlitz Saturday, June 27 - Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, Montana Join scientists, students and community members in a 24-hour effort to find and identify as many species of animal and plants as possible. The park open to volunteers runs from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.   For more information: www.bitterrootbioblitz.com. For more information on the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/Refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=61560.  

See the eagles July - Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota Take a volunteer-led eagle-watching tour at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month through July. Guided tours leave at 6:00 p.m. by four-wheel-drive van from the visitor center at 3815 American Blvd. East. Bring binoculars and wear walking shoes. To reserve a place, call 952-858-0740 at least 24 hours in advance. A $5-per-person donation is requested.   For more information: www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=32590.

Count butterflies Saturday, July 11 - Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa Join staff and volunteers in roaming the refuge for a butterfly count. Binoculars and guide books will be provided. Learn about butterflies and the plants they depend upon. The event will run from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.   For more information: www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=33670.

Watch a unique flying lesson July and August - Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin Catch a daybreak flight training for the whooping crane chicks raised on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, in preparation for their trip south this fall. Each morning at sunrise during July and August, weather-permitting, ultralight airplanes lead the newest crop of endangered whooping cranes in swoop and soar lessons. You can watch the giant-winged birds and the overhead action free from the Point B observation tower on the refuge. Flight lessons are canceled if it's windy or raining.   For more information: www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=32530.

Take a red wolf howling safari Summer long - Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina Track a wolf at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Cars caravan to the howling site on Wednesday nights throughout the summer, weather-permitting. There's a nominal charge of $5 to participate in the two-hour guided program. To reserve a place, call 252-796-5600. Bring a flashlight and insect repellant. No pets allowed.   For more information: www.redwolves.com. For information on the refuge: www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=41630.

Take an interpretive paddle tour Selected dates in July and August - Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon Bring your own canoe or kayak, and you can enjoy an hour and a half guided paddle tour of the refuge. You're responsible for bringing life jackets, a whistle, water and snacks. Refuge employees will supply binoculars for viewing hawks, osprey and other creatures. Advance reservations are needed.   For more information or to reserve online: www.fws.gov/oregoncoast. For information on the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/Refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=13598.  

Catch a historic how-to Sunday, August 9 - Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington Learn how Native Americans made hunting tools from stone and bone. Enjoy demonstrations of historic Chinookan tool making, plant harvesting and weaving from natural materials. 12:00 (noon) to 3:30 p.m. at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. The plankhouse is open regularly on weekends from 12:00 (noon) to 4:00 p.m. through October.   For more information: www.plankhouse.org. For information on the refuge: www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=13551.

Enjoy a wildlife festival Saturday, August 22 - Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Vermont Take in the second annual Nulhegan Wildlife Festival, timed to coincide with the North Country Moose Festival in northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire. Enjoy guided river walks, speakers, a flycasting demo, a photo workshop and kids' activities. Live fish and birds of prey from the region will be on display. The festival runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Nulhegan Basin Division Visitor Contact Center.   For more information: www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=53590.