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Wildlife & Habitat

Waterfowl flying

St. Catherine Creek is home to a diverse population of wildlife and is a protected habitat for wintering waterfowl.

  • Wintering Waterfowl

    Wildlife & Habitat - Wintering Waterfowl

    St. Catherine Creek NWR was established to provide a habitat and protection for wintering waterfowl, particularly for mallards, Northern pintails, blue-winged teal, and wood ducks.  The refuge provides a diversity of habitats for waterfowl that include shallowly flooded moist-soil impoundments, scrub-shrub wetlands, and cypress-tupelo swamps.  Wintering waterfowl utilize each of these habitats during the winter to find a variety of foods, cover, and to begin pair bonding for the spring.  Waterfowl abundance will vary by year, but could range from 20,000-50,000 waterfowl during peak times of the year, which usually occur in early to mid-January.  Common winter visitors include the mallard, Northern pintail, gadwall, Northern shoveler, green-winged/blue-winged teal, wood duck, and American wigeon.

  • Wood Storks

    Wood Storks

    A common visitor to St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge, the wood stork is the only stork that currently breeds in North America. 

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  • Alligator Gar

    Alligator Gar

    The alligator gar is a large prehistoric fish native to North America, particularly the lower Mississippi River and Gulf Coast states. It is the largest of seven species of gar with some as long as 10 feet and weighing 300 pounds! They can live to be over 50 years old! The largest alligator gar caught in Mississippi weighed 215 pounds and was caught in 2003 in the Mississippi River near St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Alligator gar were historically found from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico within the Mississippi River Valley and its tributaries, but over the past century, that range has been dramatically reduced. 

    Gar live in lakes, bayous, slow moving rivers, and are able to tolerate brackish and some salty water in coastal marshes and bays. This inland fish prefer slow-moving rivers with wide floodplains that usually flood during the spring. This flooding creates shallow backwater areas that are good for spawning. Unfortunately for the alligator gar and other floodplain species, flood control measures such as levees and dams have largely eliminated their preferred spawning habitat in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. The loss of habitat has contributed significantly to population declines throughout the region. St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge is an important, perhaps critically important, spawning area for alligator gar. Each year fisheries biologists remove eggs from the alligator gar they catch (and release) at the refuge and use the young fish to restock other areas. Extensive research is also being conducted on the refuge to gain a better understanding of the gar's ecological needs. 

  • Bottomland Hardwood Forests

    Wildlife & Habitat - Mixed Hardwood Forest

    Most of St. Catherine Creek is naturally made of bottomland hardwood forests, however, nearly two-thirds of the refuge was cleared in the 1960's for row-crop agriculture. Today, much of the lands have been planted back to bottomland hardwood tree species. 

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  • Upland Mixed Hardwood Forests Habitat

    Alligator in habitat

    St. Catherine Creek NWR manages a section of upland habitat along the Mississippi River bluff adjacent to the river floodplain.  This predominately-forested section acts as a buffer and a corridor for neotropical forest songbirds that follow the Mississippi River during migration.  Many of these forest songbirds will utilize the forest structure to nest during the spring and summer months.  The forest communities along the bluff consist of a mixture of pine and upland hardwoods. 

Page Photo Credits — Flock of waterfowl by Gary Kramer/USFWS, Wintering Waterfowl by USFWS, Wood Storks by Charman Culpit, Alligator Gar by USFWS, Mixed Hardwood Forest Habitat by Nick Wirwa/USFWS, Alligator in Habitat by Lizzie Boes
Last Updated: Jun 13, 2014
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