The Frederick L. Wicks Prairie Wildlife Sanctuary consists of 400 acres (most of Section 33, T156N, R89W) of hummocky virgin short-grass prairie – including over twenty wetland basins (glacial potholes, the largest covering 25 acres, another covering 3 acres) – on the Missouri Plateau (the high-plains end of the Great Plains), midway between the Missouri River (to the southwest) and the Souris River (to the northeast), the latter flowing north into Lake Winnipeg, part of the Hudson Bay watershed. The Sanctuary is on the edge of an area of intense oil exploration, underlain by the Bakken (geologic) Formation.
The property was donated to the National Audubon Society in 1992 as a memorial to Frederick L. Wicks (1885-1956) – longtime eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor in Valley City, North Dakota – who had purchased it in several parcels beginning in 1908. The property had been leased out for many years and was grazed moderately through 1996 (a transitional period was allowed so that the lessee could make alternative grazing arrangements). The land had (pre-)historically also been grazed by wandering herds of buffalo (bison). Periodic grazing – or burning – helps to rejuvenate the prairie.
The Sanctuary – which lies along the Mississippi flyway (bird migration route) about 45 miles west of Minot and 4 miles southwest of Blaisdell off of U.S. Highway 2 – is just 30 miles south of the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge for migrating and breeding birds, and is adjacent to a 1000-acre U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Waterfowl Protection Area to the east. There is also a lot of nearby acreage in the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program (including the southwest quarter of Section 33), converted from cropland to tame or native grasses and other vegetative cover to, among other things, increase wildlife habitat. The remaining 80 acres of Section 33 (the eighth in the middle of the east side) is cropland.
The prairie surrounding the Sanctuary’s wetlands provides nesting cover for waterfowl, probably including pintail, teal, shoveler, widgeon, mallard, gadwall, etc. Hawks and sharp-tailed grouse have been observed in the Sanctuary, and it is probable habitat for the Baird sparrow and other endangered species, as well as for pheasants and deer. (We would welcome reports of species observed.)
In 1993, as part of its North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Lostwood Wetlands Management District installed three “predator-free” cement nesting structures for mallards and Canada geese in the two largest wetland basins. Already in 1992 the USFWS had put out bales of flax straw for protected nesting.
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