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About the Refuge

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What is today known as the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge first emerged 120,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era when a barrier island was born.


Great continental glaciers retreated and their melted ice filled the sea. A rising sea piled up ridge after ridge of sand along today’s Texas Gulf Coast, creating a vast island of which Aransas is a remnant. Time brought many changes to the land. River sediments filled barrier lagoons, joining the island to the mainland. Grasses and trees invaded sandy ridges creating a home for Ice Age mammals such as lion, camel, bison, bear, mammoth and mastodon. The Pleistocene era was lost to geological history; behind it was left the land and a few mementos of that era, including fossilized teeth and alligators.

Today, this landscape is best known for its prominent place in the American wildlife conservation movement. In 1941, when only 15 whooping cranes survived in the wild, the iconic bird became an emblem of alarm and concern for all endangered and threatened species. Aransas became a focal point of the national and worldwide effort to rescue the species from extinction.

Thankfully, due to the foresight of others, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge had been established in 1937 to serve as “a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife…” and “…for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds…” The wildlife conservation mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ensures the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge will continue to conserve, protect and enhance these lands for the benefit of wildlife and the American people.
Page Photo Credits — Whooping Crane / Steve Hillebrand ©
Last Updated: Feb 20, 2013
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