The ‘Sev’: Hidden gem of Central New Mexico

By Kathy Granillo

©Colin Barnett

For many attendees, the location of this year’s TWS Annual Conference in the Southwest offers new and unique opportunities to experience the wildlife in ways not possible elsewhere in the country. The Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System outside of Alaska, is one of many adventures attendees can take advantage of during their stay in New Mexico this September. The “Sev,” as it’s known by locals, is unique among other refuges in that it was set aside “to preserve and enhance the integrity and the natural character of the ecosystems of the property by creating a wildlife refuge managed as nearly as possible in its natural state.”  Many National Wildlife Refuges were established to manage specific wildlife species; the Sev is managed to allow natural processes such as flooding and fire to prevail and continue to shape the ecosystem.

At 230,000 acres, the refuge includes four different intersecting biomes that support an amazing array of biological diversity.  The Rio Grande flows through the center of the refuge, and serves as an important source of water for wildlife in an arid landscape.  September is a particularly good time of year to visit the refuge for hiking, lizard viewing and birding. Literally dozens of hummingbirds ply the refuge feeders and nearby native wildflowers, while the pollinator garden draws many kinds of native butterflies. When visiting the Sev, consider hiking the 3.8-mile Mesa View trail, or if you have a bit less time walk the 1-mile Nature Loop. The more adventurous may consider a stop at San Lorenzo Canyon, known far and wide for offering visitors a remarkable geological journey. Whimsical sculpted sandstones and mudstones provide clues to past upheavals while natural springs create an oasis in the dry canyon and draw desert bighorn sheep to the craggy cliffs nearby. Excellent photography opportunities abound.

The cultural history of the Refuge is also long and varied, like much of New Mexico. The area was inhabited by the Piro Pueblo people prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1598, and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which passed nearby, was the main transit route between Santa Fe and Mexico City, traversing 1600 miles of arid lands since the earliest of times.

Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge trails are open sunrise to sunset and entry is free. The Visitor Center is open from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Restroom facilities are available at the Visitor Center during open hours. At the Visitor Center, Refuge staff and volunteers are available to provide you with maps, brochures, and checklists and let you know what’s happening on the Refuge. Visit the Refuge website or Facebook page for details and directions. Rent a car, make the trip, you won’t regret it!

Registration for The Wildlife Society’s 24th Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is now open! Members can register through Your Membership. For more information on the conference, and non-member registration, click here.