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Tamarac Wildlife Refuge

Here at Tamarac, wildlife is left undisturbed as they care for their young. Portions of the refuge are closed to the public during this crucial time, but many viewing opportunities still exist. Photo By: Claudine Grove

Summer is a wonderful time to celebrate being with family and friends by observing the wild families found in nature.

Look for deer fawns hiding behind their mothers, bear cubs exploring their new world and eaglets demanding to be fed. Experience the vibrant colors and fragrances of summer woodland wildflowers including the Canada anemone, Joe Pye weed and wild geraniums. Listen for songbirds as they settle in for the summer season.

See you on the refuge where the blacktop ends and the backwoods begin!

Wildlife watching

Here at Tamarac, wildlife is left undisturbed as they care for their young. Portions of the refuge are closed to the public during this crucial time, but many viewing opportunities still exist.

The most optimum times for viewing wildlife occur around sunrise and sunset. But sometimes even an afternoon visit can be rewarding to the quiet, watchful observer.

To increase your chances of seeing wildlife, take a drive on the Blackbird Wildlife Drive. This five-mile drive follows the edges of lakes, marshes and meadows. If you feel inclined to exercise, hike the 2-mile long Old Indian Hiking Trail and experience the beauty of the maple basswood forest.


Try your luck in one of our five lakes open to fishing. There are many varieties of fish to be caught including crappie, walleye, sunfish, northern pike and bass. A fishing map and regulations can be obtained at the information kiosks located at refuge entrances.

Changing our power source, naturally

The Visitor Center will be closed for one year while we install a new power system that will draw energy from the earth and the sun.

Tamarac is tapping into nature for clean efficient, cost effective energy. Geothermal heating and cooling will cut our energy use in half and is the most environmentally friendly way to heat and cool a building.

Unlike other comfort systems, geothermal does not emit carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, or other greenhouse gasses which contribute to air quality pollution. Solar panels will be installed to provide a portion of the electricity dramatically cutting energy costs.

Using solar energy is a long- lasting commitment to Minnesota's future. This energy retrofit project also includes installing energy efficient windows, additional insulation, high efficient lighting, water reducing fixtures and more.

Refuge information can be obtained at several kiosks located at refuge entrance areas.

For additional information, contact the staff at 218-847-2641. Check us out on Facebook as well.

Interpretive programs and activities

• Wildlife Excursions are offered every Thursday at 10 a.m. Meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area. Explore the refuge with a knowledgeable guide. Search for wildlife and learn about the natural and cultural history of Tamarac.

• Wild Wednesdays! Programs will be offered every Wednesday at 10 a.m. July through August. Explore the world of nature with your child or grandchild during this hour-long adventure. Activities designed for 3-7 year olds. July 4 program meets at the Visitor Center. The remainder programs will meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area.

• Sunday, July 15, at 2 p.m. -- The Scoop on Poop!

For kids of all ages! We may not see all the critters we want, but they leave plenty behind. Discover the wonders of scat. You'll even get to create your own animal scat to take home. Meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area.

• Sunday, July 22, at 2 p.m. -- Leave it to Beavers!

Discover the amazing adaptations this creature has acquired over thousands of years of evolution. Learn how this large rodent played a role in Minnesota history. Visit a large beaver dam and lodge. Meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area.

• Saturday, Aug. 4, at 2 p.m. -- Tamarac History Tour

Take a journey into Tamarac's past. Before the refuge was established, the landscape was extensively settled. Who were these folks? Where did they live and how did they survive in the wilderness? Caravan tour to several sites. Meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area.

• Sunday, Aug. 5, at 2 p.m. -- A Treasure of Trumpeters!

Learn how this bird was nearly decimated and how Tamarac played a key role in its recovery. We'll travel out on the refuge in search of these majestic birds. Meet at the Balsam Lake Overlook on County Hwy 26.

• Saturday, Aug. 18, at 10 a.m. -- Walk on the Wildflower Side!

Back by popular demand! Join refuge volunteer Nancy Brennan in search of sun-loving blooms of late summer. Meet on the Blackbird Wildlife Drive at stop No. 4 and carpool to walk location near Pine Lake.

• Sunday, Aug. 26, at 2-4 p.m. -- Beginning Birding

Discover the world of birding. Learn the basics of bird identification, how to get the most out of your binoculars and experience some birding "apps." Learn 12 new species and their calls. Meet at the Balsam Lake Overlook on County Hwy 26.

11th annual photo contest

Start capturing those great images of nature here at Tamarac.

The 11th annual photo contest deadline is Sept. 14. Categories include Wildlife, Plant Life, Scenic, Recreation, and Nature's Abstracts. Up to 5 photos can be entered, no more than 2 per category.

For more information and contest rules, visit

The River Otter: One funny weasel

While driving home the other night, a long bodied critter ran in front of my car. Its movement reminded me of a "Slinky" toy racing to the other side. It was a river otter.

In our neck of the woods, this playful weasel is quite common -- so common that a river, lake and county are named after it. But it wasn't too long ago, early in the 20th century that the river otter's range was greatly reduced as a result of wetland drainage and pollution.

Otters require a variety of aquatic habitats including lakes, ponds, marshes and rivers. They live in dens usually borrowed from beavers, muskrats or woodchucks. Today, otters are common in all of northern Minnesota and are becoming more common in southern Minnesota because of the ongoing effort to restore wetlands.

River otters have long sleek bodies, which can measure 3-4 feet long including its 18 inch tail. Its body shape allows it to maneuver better than many fish. Otters can swim up to seven miles per hour while barely making a ripple on the water's surface.

Weighing up to 30 pounds, it is Minnesota's largest aquatic carnivore. The color of its coat is dark brown to black with its underside, throat and cheeks gray to white.

An otter's diet primarily consists of fish but may also include crustaceans, turtles, clams and muskrats. Their sensitive facial whiskers easily detect moving prey especially in murky water. They may also prey upon chipmunks and mice.

Like other members of the weasel family, otters reproduce in a unique way. Females will become "pregnant' for nearly a year. At 8 months, the embryos begin to develop and the young or kits are born in the spring. This is called "delayed implantation."

Mothers are devoted parents -- teaching their young to swim and even catching and releasing prey to improve their hunting skills. The males seldom help raise the young. The kits will venture out on their own when they are 12-13 months old.

A river otter's fur is rather valuable and therefore is a registered fur bearer in Minnesota. This means that the trapping season is carefully controlled and that each pelt must be registered with the DNR. Out of a population of 12,000, about 2,000 are trapped each year.

Otters often put a smile on people's faces. They know how to have fun. Otters are one of the few animals that play much like children. They are great swimmers, and are very curious. While out near a river or pond, look for signs of a good time -- slippery slides of mud or snow depending on the season.