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Sevilleta refuge a wild wonder

Quail can be seen moving across the landscape.

A hawk soars overhead and then finds a tree to use as a perch.

Elk tracks can be seen leading to a water source.

A cactus can be seen blooming nearby.

Evidence of wildlife can be seen on most parts of the 230,000-acre Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

While a large portion of the refuge is off limits as a habitat for the wildlife, there is still plenty for visitors to see on the refuge in northern Socorro County between Socorro and Belen.

To start with, there are trails ranging from a half-mile to 3.5 miles at the visitor’s center.

“You can see a variety of plants and birds,” said Tamara Coombs, President of Amigos de la Sevilleta, the friends group of the refuge.

Visitors walking along the trail will also see different species of cactus in bloom, according to Jeannine Kimble, Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services manager.

“There are also some really great views,” Kimble said of the mesas, mountains and desert terrain within view of the visitor’s center.

San Lorenzo Canyon on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge is a favorite with hikers. (Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal)

San Lorenzo Canyon on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge is a favorite with hikers. (Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal)

Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Manager Kathy Granillo points out that a variety of lizards can also be seen along the trails.

There are also interpretive panels along the trails providing visitors with information about the vegetation on the refuge.

“If you want to learn about vegetation, these trails would be a good start,” Kimble said.

But access to the refuge isn’t limited to the trails.

There is also the refuge’s portion of San Lorenzo Canyon. It’s possible to see elk – and even bighorn sheep – among the animal life there, according to Granillo.

Elk tracks were in abundance there last week leading to a waterfall at the canyon.

The wetlands are also now open again to the public after work on the habitat of endangered and threatened species along the Rio Grande in the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

“The wetlands offer a wonderful opportunity to see several species of birds,” said Granillo, who is also a birding enthusiast. “People can walk around. It’s just a few klicks north of the Rio Saludo.”

There are also other opportunities to other parts of the refuge — especially if you join the Amigos de la Sevilleta.

The Amigos host tours and events on the refuge during various times of the year.

The events include horseback rides, bird and canyon hikes, as well as opportunities for star, meteor and moon gazing.

Among the events coming up include the Second Annual Butterfly Count on June starting at 8 a.m.. The refuge is one of only two places in New Mexico where butterfly counts have been performed.

Steve Cary, author of Butterfly Landscapes of New Mexico, will again serve as chief identifier. Cary has traveled all over the state to study and photograph more than 300 species.

The count is free. No experience is necessary.

Nineteen butterfly species were counted on the refuge during the first count.

There will also a Moth Night on July 30 from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The chief identifier will be Eric Metzler, recipient of a National Park Service Award for his research at White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

As a volunteer, Metzler discovered more than 600 species of moth, 36 of which are new to science.

The Amigos will begin to make reservations for both on May 2. Reservations may be made at or leave a message at 505-864-4021, ext. 102.

There are a limited number of overnight accommodations available for Moth Night at the UNM Sevilleta Field Station at $25 per person. Participants must bring sleeping bags and towels.

The Amigos support the refuge in fundraising, which is becoming increasingly important with decreasing government budgets, according to Coombs. They also do what they can to help the five-member staff of the refuge.

The Amigos help with education and research at the refuge, and work to preserve the natural and historical resources of the refuge.

Members make Amigos possible and membership is open to all. Amigos de la Sevilleta raises money through member’s fees and special events. Grants and store sales also contribute. They help by volunteering in a variety of jobs at the refuge.

They help with public events such as tours, and bring special speakers to the refuge. They help bring school groups by paying the cost of school buses. They pay for research equipment such as the radio tracking collars used by refuge scientists.