Refuge officials hope to eliminate invasive plants

LAWTON, Ok (RNN Texoma) - The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge hopes to get rid of some invasive plants on Saturday. Refuge officials are holding the 6th annual 'plant pull,' and are asking volunteers to come out and help.

The plant pull started to teach people more about the refuge, and in return get help. The refuge covers 60,000 acres. Wildlife Biologist Scott Johnson said they take care of it the best they can and ask for the public's help when needed.

"It's one of the last remaining intact mixed-grass prairie ecosystems in the country," Johnson said. "We take our conservation efforts very seriously here."

Each group will have someone letting them know what they're trying to get rid of in that area. Common mullein is one of the plants they're trying to eliminate.

"It will produce very large seed stock, and at the very top there's a yellowing flower," he said. "Those have the ability to produce 100,000 seeds, and have the ability to survive in the soil for over 100 years."

Last year, they were able to pull 7,000 invasive plants in the four hours they were out there working. They hope to have at least 4,500 invasive plants pulled this weekend.

Some people will also remove yellow spined thistle at Prairie Dog Town, and others will go into what is usually restricted area.

"We've got other groups that are going to be in the special use area targeting muscle thistle," Johnson said. "That's a new invasive out here. It was found in 2014 for the first time. We think we've isolated the infestation and we've been hitting it hard ever since we've found it."

If you'd like to help, go to the refuge corrals Saturday morning. The gates open at 7 a.m. and they'll take people to their pulling sites at 8 a.m. They'll be done by noon. The corrals are located by the refuge headquarters.

He said if anyone comes and helps, they should wear pants and boots. Other essentials like gloves, bug spray, sunscreen, and lunch, that will be provided for them.

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