- Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is the only wildlife sanctuary operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It is the wintering ground for several thousand Canada geese, the largest concentration on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The geese arrive in mid-October and stay until late February or early March. About 100 geese stay the year round. During the peak of the season, more than 5,000 geese may be present. Corn, millet and other crops favored by geese are grown for them, adding to the marsh and aquatic plants that flourish in the ponds along the Patuxent River.
The sanctuary also offers habitats for a variety of birds and mammals. On a visit to Merkle, one may see red fox, a groundhog, or a white-tailed deer. In the summer, ospreys nest close to the visitor center and the hummingbirds, finches and purple martins are abundant. In the neighboring ponds, visitors are likely to see herons and other water birds. On the trails, one can see bluebirds and many different songbirds.
Bird watching, hiking, biking and fishing are available at various times of the year. A service charge of $2 per vehicle is payable at the entrance. Most programs are free or reasonably priced. Quarterly calendars listing upcoming programs are available for the spring, summer, fall and winter months. Call to have a calendar mailed to you. Pets are not allowed. The Wildlife Sanctuary and hiking trails are open 7 AM to sunset daily all year, except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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