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Habitat

Habitat with waterfowl

The 11,320-acre Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is a mixture of forests, grasslands, creeks, freshwater wetlands, and Lake Texoma.  Each habitat has its own unique natural history and supports a variety of native wildlife.

  • Prairie

    “Prairie” is a general term for several types of grass-dominated ecosystems where trees are either absent or only widely scattered on the landscape. The tallgrass prairie once covered an area stretching from Canada to Mexico and Ohio to the Rocky Mountains - covering more than 12 million acres of North America. Tallgrass prairie ecosystems with grasses such as little bluestem, big bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass support uniquely specialized plant, animal, reptile, and bird species. The loss of large grazing animals such as buffalo, pronghorn and elk, plowing for agricultural development, and the lack of fire all contributed to native prairies becoming functionally non-existent over the last 150 years. Today, only 5,000 acres of tallgrass prairie remain.


    Much of what is now Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge used to be part of the Blackland Prairie Ecosystem and had some of the richest, naturally fertile soils in the world. Invasion by trees including cedar, locust, mesquite, and winged-elm has transformed the grasslands into areas that look much different than even as recently as the mid 1800’s. Even though buffalo will likely never graze in this area again, restoring native prairie is very important to grassland birds such as dickcissels, meadowlarks, bobolinks, and various sparrows. For more information on what the refuge is doing to restore prairie habitat, please visit the Resource Management section under the What We Do tab.

  • Forest

    Although much of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge used to be grasslands, forested areas have always existed along creeks and lowland valleys. Creek channels are lined with riparian species such as boxelder, black willow, and Plains cottonwood. Portions of the refuge lie with the Eastern Cross Timbers. This unique area is comprised of a narrow, north-south band of black jack and post oak. Soils here are very fertile, producing a larger and wider variety of trees and shrubs than other forests. In pioneer times, the band of timber was a famous landmark as it was well known as a formidable obstacle to travelers because of the density of growth. Loose, sandy soils that are found in the Sandy Unit of the refuge support large numbers of beautiful post oaks and black jack oaks, often gnarly-looking– likely much older than you might think with their stunted heights. During summer months, the leaves from hardwood trees provide much need shade that helps cool the forest for its inhabitants.


    Refuge forests produce food and provide habitat for wildlife – especially birds, small mammals, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey. Nuts and berries from common trees such as post oak, northern red oak, and blackjack oak, pecan, redbud, mockernut hickory, and hackberry provide valuable forage. 

  • Croplands

    It is late fall. The weather is cold and the trees have dropped their leaves. So why do we see all of the green fields at the refuge? It is food that was planted for over-wintering geese. The refuge currently farms approximately 300 acres of winter wheat. Most of these areas are adjacent to the lakeshore and receive heavier goose use than the remaining fields. The main objective is to provide a good supply of browse (food) for winter and spring feeding needs of snow, Ross’, white-fronted, and Canada geese. An extra benefit to refuge neighbors is that the fields help keep the geese at the refuge and away from near-by farmlands.

    Several refuge fields not adjacent to the lake are planted with a wildlife/clover blend each fall. Wildlife species such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys benefit from these areas as well as crops planted for migrating waterfowl.

  • Wetlands

    Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year, or for varying periods of time during the year including during the growing season. There are many different types of wetlands, but management at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge focuses primarily on Moist Soil Units (MSU’s).

    The refuge has about 300 acres of MSU’s – areas where water is impounded by dikes so depths can be controlled. Vegetation including sedges, rushes, native millet, pondweed, and smartweed is often mowed or disked, and water levels are raised or lowered to prepare for arriving wading birds, shorebirds, or ducks. Flooded MSU’s create lush wetlands and a unique diversity of habitat that is attractive to a variety of resident and migratory birds. Vegetated wetland marshes are perfect for nesting and brood rearing because the abundance of aquatic plants and invertebrates provide valuable forage for adults and young. Birds commonly seen in wetlands include puddle ducks such as mallard, shoveler, pintail and teal; wading birds such as great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, and white-faced ibis; and shorebirds including greater yellowlegs, killdeer, sandpipers, and plovers.

  • Open Water

    The waters of Lake Texoma provide open water habitat that serves as loafing areas for waterfowl, year-round habitat for marsh birds, and seasonal habitat for shorebirds. Migrating white pelicans can be seen drifting on the lake, or encircling schools of fish as a group in spring and fall. In winter months, diving ducks including canvasback and redheads; hooded mergansers and pied-bill grebes; and even common loons depend on these deeper waters to provide their diet staple -- fish.

Page Photo Credits — © William H. Powell
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2012
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