September 25-27

8 AM - 6 PM Each Day

Volume 3 • Issue 9 • September 2009

Wildlife Expo 2009

An Invitation to the Outdoors

As a kid I couldn’t wait for that first warm day in the spring. The first blush of green in the tree tops and the first warm evening meant that summer was almost here.

As a kid summer meant freedom. No school, no getting stuck inside on cold days - no problems. My summer’s were ideal and I savored those long evenings when the sun was as reluctant to go to sleep as I was to go inside. With a bike and a fishing pole the possibilities were endless. Summer meant that I could hang out with my friends doing whatever I wanted without the confines of a classroom, long pants or schedules.

As an adult I still love the summer time, but now I find myself longing for the first cool northerly breeze and the first early morning frost. Now it is the fall that signals the open road, hunting trips with friends and escaping the confines of air conditioning.
Bring a child to the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo and share some moments in the outdoors. Photo by Lesley B. Carson.

For the past five years there has been one more thing to look forward to as summer breathes its final gasps – the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo. If you have never been, shame on you, because you’re really missing out on a great event. And your non-attendance is doubly worse if you have kids or grand kids.

Come to the Expo and you and your family can try out more outdoor hobbies than you could master in a lifetime. From mountain biking to bird watching to bowfishing to basket weaving to fishing to kayaking - the number of hands-on activities borders on the ridiculous for a three-day event. The Wildlife Expo is your open invitation to all that the Oklahoma outdoors has to offer.

If you think you already know all there is to know about the outdoors – forget about it. Come with an open mind and you will learn more than your brain can absorb. You’ll find you have just scratched the surface when you ask a few questions of the world duck calling champion, the expert mule packer, the survivalist, the veteran dog trainer or any number of other outdoor brainiacs who will be at the Expo.

You have no excuse not to join us at this year’s Expo. If you think you live too far away, think again. Visitors have come from every county in the state and even a few surrounding states to enjoy a day in the outdoors.

It has already opened the doors of endless possibilities to enjoy every season outside for tens of thousands of Oklahomans. I just wish they had it when I was a kid.

Written by Micah Holmes. Micah is an information and education supervisor with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Great Plains Trail

Black Mesa Loop

In the far western part of the Oklahoma panhandle lies an area of land that could almost be from another planet. With prairies and mesas, buffalograss and pine trees, the Black Mesa Loop of the Great Plains Trail is one "must- see" of the state.

Within the eastern half of this loop, the well-mowed lawn look of the shortgrass prairie pervades the landscape from horizon to horizon. Dotted with yucca and extensive prairie dog towns, the shortgrass prairie is home to a unique set of wildlife species including burrowing owls, long-billed curlews, swift fox, and ferruginous hawks.

The long-billed curlew can be found along the Black Mesa loop of the Great Plains Trail.
As you travel west within the loop, the gently rolling plains suddenly meet flat-topped mesas capped with black, basaltic lava rising 500’ above the surrounding prairie. Systems of deep canyons have been cut by the Cimarron River and its tributaries resulting in numerous ravines and steep slopes which are home to plants and animals closely related to the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains.  The mesas are topped with short-grass prairie but the more gentle slopes of the mesas are covered in a woodland community composed of junipers and pinyon pine.

Birders can expect to see scaled quail, pinyon jay, Chihuahuan raven, curve-billed thrasher, and common bushtit.  Other wildlife include rock squirrel, mule deer, and numerous lizards including the “horny toad” a.k.a., Texas horned lizard. 

Within this loop are two working guest ranches, over 54 miles of scenic routes through pinyon pine and juniper mesas (should only be driven during good weather) and a fairly challenging nine- mile round trip hike on Black Mesa.  

Black Mesa State Park, in addition to offering the usual wonderful amenities to its visitors, also offers a trout fishery at Lake Carl Etling in the winter. 

For more information about the Black Mesa Loop and other loops within the Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma click here.

Written by Melynda Hickman. Melynda is a wildlife diversity biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Birds In My Yard

How to Get Them

Oklahoma can be home to nearly 200 wintering bird species and with minimal expense and a little elbow grease you can attract many of them to your own backyard. Planting wildflowers is one of the most effective ways to start.

Annual flowers such as Indian blanket (Oklahoma’s state flower), cosmos, scarlet sage and sunflowers attract a wide variety of birds, are hardy and germinate in 10 to 20 days. For best results, seeds should be hand cast after a seed bed of at least a ½ inch is prepared. Keep in mind that most wildflowers do best with at least six hours of sunlight.

Bird feeders are another simple way to bring birds to your backyard. The key to successful bird feeders is diversity. Offer different types of food such as black oil sunflower, safflower, suet cakes and niger thistle. These should be hung in containers from trees or posts, while cracked corn, mealworms (live or freeze dried) and white proso millet can be placed in trays on or near the ground.

No matter what you decide to offer your neighborhood birds, be sure to include a source of fresh water as well.

Try out a few of these ideas and you’ll be enjoying native birds in your backyard in no time.

For more information on attracting wildlife to your neck of the woods, visit and be sure to check out Landscaping for Wildlife in the Outdoor Store.

Written by Chris Allen. Chris is an education intern with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Our Mission:

The WILDLIFE DIVERSITY PROGRAM monitors and manages the state's wildlife and fish species that are not hunted or fished.