Excessive heat pushes Wildlife Refuge to implement hiking restrictions

Excessive heat pushes Wildlife Refuge to implement hiking restrictions

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Due to the recent heat wave across southwest Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge had its first day of heat restrictions for hikers.

Starting Thursday, anyone wanting to hike of the refuge can only do so between sunrise and 10 am.

When the heat index gets up close to 110 degrees, hiking on the refuge can turn from a good time to a very dangerous time in a matter of minutes.

“We want to make sure everybody is being safe, and they are having a good, enjoyable trip at the Wichita mountains, and that does not include heat stroke or heat exhaustion. We want to make sure that at all times, we are protecting the public,” said Lynn Cartmell, the Visitor Services Manager.

When emergency calls come in from the refuge, one local EMT said those calls can be particularly hard for first responders, especially in the summer.

“It’s hot for them, we already know that they are out there suffering from borderline heat exhaustion. We don’t know where they are at, or how long it will take to get to them, so it makes it very stressful,” said EMT Meagan Lynch.

“Most of the locations in which we regularly do search and rescues are on top of mountains, uphill, so we are carrying gear with us, it’s hot we are sweating, and we are concerned with the safety of our staff, our volunteers and our first responders," said Cartmell.

When first responders cant locate the people they are searching for, Lynch said, “We just holler and yell. A helicopter will get up and the air, and help with search and rescue. But yeah, we just holler and do the best we can to find them."

“We 100 percent apologize for the inconvenience, but there are a lot of other wildlife dependent recreation that you can do here. You can do wildlife photography, you can fish. Our bison have been roaming in large herds, so there is plenty of that to see," said Cartmell.

If you still decide to go out on the wildlife refuge for any other reason, Cartmell said people need to remember to bring lots of water, wear protective clothing, and don’t push it if you start feeling weak.

With more extreme heat in the forecast, Cartmell said these restrictions are here until those temperatures start to drop.

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