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Wildlife and Habitat

RiverOtter_512x219For centuries, flood waters of the Deep Fork River blanketed the landscape, periodically inundating the bottomland hardwood forests while replenishing rich fertile soils with nutrients and filtering toxic chemicals from the environment. 

Alternating between wet and dry periods, the land and the habitat it supports is affected by how long the waters remain.    This in turn supports a unique assortment of wildlife that spends all or part of their life on the refuge.  Approximately 85 percent of the refuge is made of forested wetlands.  Many of the plants found in this bottomland hardwood forest produce fruits, nuts and flowers that serve as a banquet for wildlife.  Wood ducks perch on tree branches near the wetlands and river otters playfully slide down muddy hills.  Red-eared slider turtles bask on sun-filled logs while pygmy rattlesnakes lay camouflaged among the oak and hickory leaves. 

The refuge’s sloughs and streams support a documented 149 species of birds, including large numbers of great blue heron, little blue herons, and great and snowy egrets.  Within the refuge are four great blue heron rookeries which are taken over by snowy egrets once the young blue herons have left.  Waterfowl numbers on the refuge during the winter produce an estimated at 5,000-20,000 mallards, 1,000-5,000 wood ducks, and 1,000-2,000 miscellaneous duck species.  The refuge is also important stop-over for many species of neo-tropical birds during their migration.

In addition to the diversity of birds, many species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians have also been recorded in the Deep Fork River basin.  Common game and furbearing mammals include white-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, beaver, eastern cottontail, swamp rabbit, raccoon, coyote and opossum.   Sharing the landscape are alligator snapping turtles, bull frogs, southern leopard frog, Mississippi mud turtle, eastern hognose snake and the western cottonmouth.

The Deep Fork River itself provides feeding and spawning habitat for many sport fish native to east central Oklahoma.  Fifty-nine species of fish have been identified from the river, streams, and reservoirs of the river basin and many are likely to be found in refuge waters.  
Page Photo Credits — River Otter / Chris Paul ©
Last Updated: Jun 17, 2013
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