Five lucky youngsters, accompanied by their parents, were treated to a weekend of hog hunting and educational presentations at the Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge June 22-24.
The youngsters, all recent graduates of Florida’s Hunter Safety Program, administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), applied for the hunt intended to get kids outdoors by broadening their scope of knowledge about hunting and other wildlife conservation efforts.
The hunting portion of the weekend program was intended to help reduce the wild hog population, an invasive species that is a serious threat to restoration of scrub habitat on the refuge. Though inclement weather impeded the hunt, the group still managed to harvest two hogs.
On Friday evening, kids and parents attended a safetybriefing by FWC hunt master Scott Sommer, followed by presentations from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists on the benefits of prescribed fire and other management tools that improve wildlife habitat.
On Saturday, the group was treated to a hands-on field tour by The Nature Conservancy’s Tricia Martin, who showed the group some rare scrub-jays and explained how the variety of plants is important to wildlife and how invasive plants affect other plants and wildlife habitat.
The Flamingo Villas area of the national wildlife refuge is currently closed to most recreational activities. However, its management plan allows for hunting invasive species and educational activities through a permit process.
For more information on conservation and outdoor recreation, visit MyFWC.com or call the FWC’s Lakeland Regional Office at 863-648-3200.