Around Huron Wetland Management Distirict
The public lands of Huron Wetland Management District (WMD), called Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs), are a part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. These WPAs are managed to preserve wetlands, benefit endangered species, migratory birds, and other wildlife, and to provide places for people to learn about and enjoy wildlife.
Huron WMD lies within the prairie pothole region in east-central South Dakota. Headquartered in Huron, South Dakota, the District consists of 61 WPAs, totaling 17,574 acres, in Beadle, Sanborn, Jerauld, Hand, Hyde, Hughes, Sully, and Buffalo counties.
These WPAs are open year-round to foot travel only. Visitors will find a rich variety of plant and animal life. Native prairie grasses, wildflowers, and wetland flora can be observed and studied in natural prairie settings. If you have time, a short walk often reveals a fascinating world of wildlife.
When to Visit
Birds and large mammals native to the prairie can easily be seen or heard year - round. While not always visible, many species of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish are also present.
During migration, large numbers and diverse species of bird life make WPAs a paradise for photographers and bird watchers. Sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie-chicken leks are active in March and April. Snow geese usually pass through the District during March, while other ducks and geese are most abundant in April and May. Spring shorebird migration peaks during the first 2 weeks of May. Migrating songbirds begin to arrive in late April and continue through May.
Breeding songbirds continue to be active and vocal through June. Many waterfowl species use the WPAs to breed and rear young, with broods appearing in May. Many more young birds can be seen in June, July, and August. Young mammals are also easily seen in late summer. Shorebirds begin to return from the north in late June. They are most abundant in July and early August. During fall migration, waterfowl numbers peak in September. Snow geese, however, often do not arrive until October or November.
Places to Explore
Maga Ta-Hohpi is the largest WPA in the District, with a native prairie demonstration area, observation platform, GPS and compass courses , and over 2 miles of mowed and partially paved trails to explore. LeClaire WPA remains wet even in the driest years and is a great place to view waterfowl. Cain Creek WPA provides an opportunity to see a diversity of wildlife, with beavers using the flowing creek and woodland birds in the shelterbelts. The rolling terrain and expansive mixed-grass prairie of Harter WPA provides habitat for pronghorn, sharp-tailed grouse, prairie chickens, upland sandpipers, and chestnut-collared longspurs. The mudflats of Bauer WPA are an excellent place to look for shorebirds in late summer.
For a full listing of all Waterfowl Production Areas within the District, contact the Wetland Management District Headquarters in Huron, South Dakota, WPA Mapper or consult the South Dakota Sportsman's Atlas published by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.
About the Wildlife List
Information provided in this brochure regarding species presence, seasonal occurrence, abundance, and distribution is based upon the eight -county area within the WMD. This wildlife list also includes species that frequent the Missouri River as it flows along the western boundaries of Sully, Hughes, and Buffalo counties. Most species may be more or less abundant on any given WPA, depending on the distribution of the individual species and the habitat available on each WPA.
This wildlife list includes birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish observed within the District. A ll bird species names are listed in accordance with the A.O.U. Check-list of North American Birds, 7th Edition (1998), 42 nd, 43 rd, and 44 th supplements (2003). All mammal species names are listed in accordance with the Revised Checklist of North American Mammals North of Mexico (2003).
Equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available to all individuals regardless of physical or mental ability. Dial 7-1-1 for a free connection to the State transfer relay service for TTY and voice call to and from the speech and hearing impaired. For more information or to address accessibility needs, please contact the Refuge staff at 605 / 352 5894 or the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Equal Opportunity, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.
BirdsComplete List of Bird Species
The majority of passerines and other birds common to the plains states are found on the District at some time during the year. Blue-winged teal are the most abundant duck species to nest in the District. Hand and Hyde County host the highest density of northern pintails in the Dakotas. Other common species of waterfowl that nest in the District are mallards, gadwalls, redheads, and northern shovelers.
The Waterfowl Production Areas also serve as important migration stopovers. Ducks and Canada geese are particularly abundant on Millerdale, Spring Lake, Bauer, Winter, and Fischer-Nelson WPAs during molting periods and migration. In addition to other waterfowl, some WPAs also provide staging areas for snow geese. Snow geese can be found on Glanzer and Weiting WPAs during the spring, Calahan WPA during the fall, and Mud Lake WPA during both spring and fall migrations. Shorebirds are very common during migration periods in the spring and fall.
Bobolink Credit Chris Bailey
The grasslands of the district are home to nesting grasshopper sparrows, sedge wrens, vesper sparrows, dickcissels, savannah sparrows, lark buntings, chestnut-collared longspurs, bobolinks, and many other grassland birds.
Red-tailed hawk, Swainson's hawk, northern harrier, American kestrel, great-horned owl, and short-eared owl are some of the more common raptors during migration and the summer months. Rough-legged hawks are common during the winter. Although not as common, bald eagles and golden eagles can also be seen on the District.
Five species of non-migratory birds are found within the District. Ring-necked pheasants, though an introduced species, are abundant. Sharp-tailed grouse are common, while greater prairie-chicken, wild turkey, and gray partridge are present in smaller numbers.
Badger Credit Chris Bailey
The District provides habitat for white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, coyote, red fox, striped skunk, raccoon, badger, muskrat, beaver, mink, white-tailed jackrabbit, and eastern cottontail, as well as other species. Common small mammals include the northern short-tailed shrew, Hayden's shrew, meadow vole, white-footed mouse, deer mouse, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, little brown myotis, and big brown bat. The District's grasslands and marshes provide forage and cover for all of these species.
A variety of fish species are found on Huron Wetland Management District. Depending on the year, the seasonal wetlands may provide habitat for fathead minnow, golden shiners, and black bullhead. In addition to those species, semi-permanent to permanent wetlands also may provide habitat for yellow perch, northern pike, bigmouth buffalo, white sucker, and the introduced common carp. The creeks and streams may provide habitat for johnny darters, creek chub, common shiners, shorthead redhorse, stonecat, and brook stickleback. Great-blue herons, white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, American bitterns, and grebes all fish in the wetlands and streams.
Fishing is permitted on the Waterfowl Production Areas in compliance with State laws. Bullhead, perch, and northern pike can be found in Mud Lake WPA, while Cain Creek WPA is a good location for northern pike in the spring. During high water, ice-fishing for yellow perch is sometimes good on Fischer-Nelson WPA.
Amphibians and Reptiles
Western Painted Turtle
Snapping and western painted turtles are common in the wetland habitats of Huron Wetland Management District. The northern prairie skink, plains hognose snake, common garter snake, plains garter snake, and bullsnake may be found on the District's Waterfowl Production Areas, although they are rarely seen. The northern leopard frog is the most common frog in Huron WMD. The Great Plains toad, Woodhouse's toad, chorus frog, and tiger salamander are also abundant in the District.
The federally endangered whooping crane passes through central South Dakota during spring and fall migration and is occasionally sited in Huron Wetland Management District. The federally endangered interior least tern and federally threatened piping plover are local residents along the Missouri River in Sully and Hughes Counties. Huron Wetland Management District receives regular winter use from the federally protected bald eagle, which also nests in the District. The yellow-billed cuckoo, a candidate species for federal listing, is present in low numbers during the summer and has nested in the District.