Wildlife and Habitat Management
The Red River NWR’s staff uses a variety of wildlife and habitat management techniques to accomplish its mission. They are designed to provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife. These include:
- Wildlife Surveying and Monitoring
- Cooperative Farming
- Moist-Soil Management
Wildlife Surveying and Monitoring
The staff at Red River NWR currently conducts limited surveys and incidental monitoring to document the populations of certain species and species groups. For example, Red River NWR began monitoring the waterfowl numbers on the refuge in 2006. Most areas utilized by waterfowl can be observed from the ground; these types of surveys give a good index of numbers of birds on the Refuge. In addition to waterfowl surveys, breeding bird surveys and breeding frog surveys are also conducted.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service establishes hunting seasons and bag limits for waterfowl based on factors such as each species population numbers, reproductive success and survivorship. Various studies are conducted to learn more about waterfowl populations, including their movements. The Refuge helps with these efforts by banding wood ducks. Migratory bird managers determine how many wood ducks of various age and sex classes must be banded on the Refuge each year. Wood duck banding information is provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bird Banding Lab (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl).
The refuge manages moist-soil units to provide habitat for approximately 22 species of wintering waterfowl, 35 species of shorebirds, and various other wading and water birds, which is a primary objective of the refuge (i.e. provide habitat for migratory birds). Moist-soil impoundments provide a critical habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl.
Preferred moist-soil plants provide seeds and other plant parts (e.g., leaves, roots, and tubers) that provide an energy and essential nutrient source that are not found in common agricultural crops. They also support diverse populations of invertebrates, which are an important protein source for waterfowl. The provision of diverse food resources is necessary for migrating and wintering waterfowl to complete critical aspects of their annual cycle, such as feather molt and reproduction.
Each unit can be manipulated individually providing ideal management options that allow for shallow flooding in one unit and an early drawdown in another. This allows the managers to create a diversity of habitats. In addition to manipulating water levels, mechanical treatments such as mowing and disking are used to manipulate plant succession stages and regulate undesirable and noxious plants. This diversity makes these areas ideal habitat for a myriad of water birds.
Cooperative farming involves the planting of agricultural crops such as corn, rice and millet to provide high-energy foods for ducks, geese, and other wildlife. Over 1,050 acres of land are farmed by neighboring farmers under a cooperative farm agreement. The Refuge's share of crops is typically 25% and is left standing to be flooded later for waterfowl and other water birds. It is also used in conjunction with moist-soil management to assist in setting back succession.
Once the crops have been harvested, the fields are flooded in the fall/winter in preparation of the fall migration. Crops provide a high-energy food source, which is important during cold weather extremes. The refuges share of rice and millet attract tens of thousands of ducks and geese annually. Some species include Northern pintail, Mallard, American wigeon, Northern shovelers, Green-winged teal and Gadwall.
The restoration and conservation of the Red River Valley’s natural habitats and wildlife is a main objective for Red River NWR. The refuge is meeting this goal through the reforestation of approximately 7,000 acres of marginal farm and pasture lands. Historically the valley’s habitat consisted of bottomland hardwood forest, shrub/scrub and cypress sloughs.