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Graffiti problem increasing at wildlife refuge

(Source: David Farmer) (Source: David Farmer)

WICHITA MOUNTAINS WILDLIFE REFUGE, OK (KSWO) - The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a favorite place to visit for many in southwest Oklahoma, but Refuge officials said it's also a hot spot for those who like to leave a permanent mark behind.

Officers said they've always had trouble with people painting graffiti on rocks, but in the past five years, the problem has become worse and they're seeing it all over the place from busy areas like Mount Scott to places that are more secluded.

Deputy Refuge Manager, David Farmer said most people go to the refuge to relax and enjoy what it has to offer so seeing spray paint on rocks, dams, and signs is frustrating.

"There is absolutely nothing natural about the paint on rocks no matter what the message is, no matter what the intent is," Farmer said. "It just detracts from the natural beauty of the landscape."

The refuge is there for the protection of the wildlife, and the enjoyment of current and future generations Farmer said nobody wants to see vandalized rocks, especially when the images are inappropriate and offensive.

"We're working hard to get rid of those," he said. "Targeting those un-family friendly acts of graffiti first. They're the top priority in the areas that we can reach."

The Friends of the Wichita’s spent hours this past weekend scrubbing rocks trying to get most of the graffiti off Mount Scott. The images range in size, some covering boulders, others just small rocks.  

Besides being an eyesore and a time-consuming clean-up job, it's also against the law.

"It's against the federal regulations," Farmer said. "It's also against state regulations and state laws for vandalism or defacing property."

Anyone caught breaking the law faces substantial fines and possible jail time.

And stopping the vandals is something wildlife officers are passionate about, but Farmer said that's hard to do.

“It's very quick to come out here and write a couple of names or draw some figures on rocks," Farmer said. "It's a matter of sometimes 30 seconds to under a minute or two, and we can't be everywhere."

Since they can't be everywhere, Farmer said that's where anyone visiting the refuge comes in. 

If you see anyone spraying graffiti at the refuge, you're asked to call the Comanche County Dispatch at 580-355-9303.

Farmer said it also helps if you can take a picture, get a vehicle description, license plate number, or a description of the person.

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