Tag Archives: Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge

Women in the outdoors give hunting a shot




On a warm autumn Saturday, three women gather together at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge with their crossbows and archery equipment. Reminiscent of Katniss Everdeens’ from the Hunger Games Trilogy, these women may also inspire more youth and adult women to take up bow hunting. Mikalia, Maria, and Tanya are participating in a Women in the Outdoors hunt, and members of the refuge staff and National Wild Turkey Federation are ready to guide them in the field.

The three women are novice or inexperienced bow hunters, and the dedicated refuge hunt for women, by women, offers a unique opportunity for them to ask questions and get hands-on experience with experts. It is the second annual Women in the Outdoors hunt at the refuge, offered through a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wild Turkey federation.



The refuge is closed this day to everyone else. In the quiet, Refuge Law Enforcement Officer Mike McMenamin looks for signs of deer. Like a biology detective, he points out a broken branch where a buck rubbed his scent, hoof scrapes on the ground, and other places where deer had left a mark.

Chelsea Utter, wildlife refuge specialist and a National Wild Turkey Federation hunt mentor, sits patiently and quietly with Mikalia. Chelsea explains the sounds to listen for to track deer. The women will spend hours through the afternoon until dark in the blind.



For a Women in the Outdoors hunt, each participant is paired with a more experienced mentor. This one-on-one allows for a strong personal connection and comfortable relationship for learning. Mentors provide guidance on all aspects of the sport, including hunting safety, wildlife tracking, taking a first shot, and processing a deer for food.

Chelsea was a mentor for the first time the previous year. Her first mentee aimed her bow and her arrow hit her mark, a buck. Chelsea confessed that after hunting for six years, she had yet to have a successful hunt. The hunt was a proud moment for both women.

Sitting this year with Mikalia in the blind, Chelsea hopes that today she might experience that feeling of accomplishment again. Mentoring has become her favorite part of the women’s hunt program, and she hopes that her mentees might become mentors themselves some day.

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Tanya is an example of how this unique program can foster a love of hunting. On the recommendation of a friend, Tanya decided to try out the Women in the Outdoors hunt in 2016. She loved the event so much, she’s returned this year. Today, her hunt will prove successful…a milestone!



Wanting to share her newfound pastime with her son, Tanya encouraged him to enroll and participate in the refuge’s youth hunt. “It can be difficult for new or non-hunters to gain access to the knowledge, guidance, places and opportunities to gain the confidence and experience to safely, ethically, and successfully go into the field. The women’s mentored hunt provided all of those resources openly and wholeheartedly to me. The refuge hunts are special opportunities that are appreciated so much more than the mentors will ever know,” she says.

Chelsea says there’s nothing better than seeing the excitement of the participants and their eagerness to continue hunting. She says that she hopes that after participating in the program women aren’t as intimidated to get out into the woods by themselves, become part of a community of hunting enthusiasts, and feel comfortable with all stages of the hunting experience. She hopes to share with others how hunting can be a favorite pastime, an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, and a way to provide food for your family and friends.



In recognition of their hunting programs, Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge was recently awarded the Robert E. Eriksen Conservation Award by the board of directors of the New Jersey chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Working a 9 to 5 Job That You’d Never Believe

Today we’re hearing how Kelly Vera is tackling invasive species and conserving natural habitats as a Hispanic Access Foundation intern. Follow the journey of Hispanic Access Foundation interns doing great conservation and outreach work throughout the northeast here!

Throughout my college career, I had always told individuals that a 9 to 5 job was not for me. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to be an intern with Hispanic Access Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where I began to see through the complexities between that statement and where I am now. I have recognized the disconnect between the upcoming and current generation as social media evolves and the environment dissolves. I’ve found that a lot of people are disconnected and fail to recognize and appreciate their surroundings. I find it necessary to stay rooted with our native land in order to appreciate and understand the gifts that come from it. I believe that everyone is entitled to clean water, fresh air, natural food and proper living resources to ensure a healthy and happy lifestyle.

While I am just one person; with the collaboration with Hispanic Access Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I have been given the opportunity to make an impact on other communities to communicate, to educate and to engage others with wildlife and individuals. While being an intern with the Service, I have been able to learn about invasive plants, recognize different species like birds, bunnies, frogs, turtles and so much more. During my internship, I am able to be an active part of the refuge to conserve and maintain the wildlife and their homes.

Wood Turtle at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge for endangered species day.

I am stationed at two wildlife refuges, which are Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Other than utility vehicle training, canoeing and kayaking training, I have learned a great deal about invasive plants and the hazards that come from invasive and how effective they are to aquatic and other lives. I have learned ways in which people at the refuges manage water control systems to manipulate water levels and ensure habitat throughout the refuge. I have been able to monitor bird life by bird banding, bird eggs through bird gourd houses and acoustic bat surveys through the bats’ high-frequency pulses of sound.

I’ve learned that every helping hand goes a long way and that the refuge is a community based area that is supported from many individuals who are able to help maintain the area and save the wildlife and habitat.

Cops and Bobbers: Partnering with police for community and fishing!

Chelsea DiAntonio is a wildlife refuge specialist at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS

Chelsea DiAntonio is a wildlife refuge specialist at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Photo credit: USFWS

It’s National Fishing and Boating week, and today we are showcasing a partnership that merges cops, communities and fishing. Chelsea DiAntonio of the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey shares with us this inspiring story of how one city police department is taking an active role in making positive connections with its young citizens through fishing and connecting families with the natural world around them.  


When a city police department decides to hold a youth fishing derby, you can expect a great time and a fun play on words. The “Cops and Bobbers” fishing event was organized by the City of Garfield Police Department in Garfield, New Jersey, with the intent to foster positive relationships with families and young people throughout their community. One important goal of holding these community events is to deter kids from turning to the streets, getting involved with gangs, or partaking in illegal activities.

Members from the City of Garfield Police Department manage a busy registration tent. Photo Credit: USFWS

Members of the City of Garfield Police Department manage a busy registration tent. Photo Credit: USFWS

And what better way for a community to come together in a positive way then through fishing! Thus, the creation of the “Cops and Bobbers” family fishing event!

The city of Garfield is located within a mosaic of urban communities in northern New Jersey, just a few miles from Manhattan. The number of outdoor recreational areas available for families to use is minimal. But one of the few remaining community parks happens to be located just next to the police headquarters. In the middle of Dahnerts Lake Park is a nice size lake with trout stocked by the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife. While many residents take advantage of the park to play, the lake is under-utilized.

Dave Miller from The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge outfits a young angler with a bobber. Photo credit: USFWS

Dave Miller from The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge hands a young angler a bobber. Photo credit: USFWS

Since the Garfield Police Department had never run a fishing derby before they turned to the knowledgeable employees from the Great Swamp and Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuges for assistance. Refuge staff were well equipped for the event, bringing along hooks, bobbers, and other fishing supplies to help the young anglers. And as an added bonus, the police department brought fishing poles to be given away to the first 150 participants. The grand prize of the day was a kayak that went to one lucky angler who landed the largest trout.

A popular spot to fish was from the gazebo in the middle of Danhert's Lake. Photo credit: USFWS

A popular spot to fish was from the gazebo in the middle of Danhert’s Lake. Photo credit: USFWS

There’s no doubt that Garfield Police Department went above and beyond to outfit their young community members with all of the tools needed to get fishing!  Now, thanks to the Cops and Bobbers program, maybe more residents will use the lake for fishing.

George Molnar of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge helps unhook a catfish. Photo credit: USFWS

George Molnar of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge helps unhook a catfish. Photo credit: USFWS

All the refuge staff look forward to growing the partnership with the Garfield Police Department and helping with future events.  Travelling to these communities and working with urban audiences and partners such as the Garfield Police Department, present a good foundation to build new connections. Adding a fun, interactive activity such as fishing helps the cause all the better, with hopes that the younger generation fosters a stronger appreciation of the natural world.

Learn more about National Fishing and Boating Week.

Find a place to fish and boat near you.

Visit Wallkill River and Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuges

Take Me Fishing

Learn more about the Cops and Kids Foundation.