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Optima Dam was completed in 1978 but the impoundment never reached expected levels. To date, the lake has never filled enough to flood any of the Refuge lands. The intended purpose of the Refuge was to provide migration and wintering habitat for the shortgrass prairie population of Canada geese and the high plains population of mallards, but the lack of water has reduced the potential for waterfowl management. The Refuge does, however, provide an island of prime habitat for resident species such as white-tailed deer, coyotes, Rio Grande turkeys, quail, and many others. Because of its important habitats, Optima is a migratory stopover and summer home to many species of songbirds and raptors.
Raptors are common year-round. During the spring and summer months, common species include Turkey Vulture, Mississippi Kite, American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Swainson's Hawk. Species common in the fall and winter months are Bald and Golden Eagles, Prairie Falcon, Rough-legged Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, and Ferruginous Hawk. Resident game birds include the Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Ring-necked Pheasant, Bobwhite Quail, and Scaled Quail.
A variety of mammals are also found on the Refuge including white-tailed and mule deer, bobcat, coyote, beaver, porcupine, black-tailed jackrabbit, badger, raccoon, and striped skunk. Reptiles include the prairie rattlesnake and the Texas horned lizard, commonly called the horned toad.