Kern National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Southwest Region

Wildlife & Habitat of Kern National Wildlife Refuge

Kern National Wildlife Refuge is found just beyond the southern edge of the historic Tulare Lake in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The Southern San Joaquin valley was a vast wetland surrounded by saltbush scrub and grassland prior to the 1900's. Herds of elk and antelope roamed throughout the entire Central Valley. They were stalked by the now extinct California grizzly bear as well as by mountain lions and coyotes. The large game animals were hunted to near extinction in the mid 1800's. No large mammals, with the exception of the coyote, exist on the Refuge today. Reclamation of valley habitats began in the 1850's and continues today. The damming of the San Joaquin valley rivers for flood control and irrigation purposes depleted the water supply to the natural lakes and marshes.

Western Kingbird (credit: Roger Cooley)
Western Kingbird (Photo credit: Roger Cooley)

Kern National Wildlife Refuge was established on November 18, 1960 to resurrect portions of these reduced ecosystems. This 11,249-acre refuge has wetland and upland habitats suitable for a variety of wildlife. The Refuge restores a small segment of extremely valuable waterfowl habitat and plays an important role in the success of avifauna using the Pacific Flyway.

Birding is best on the Refuge October through March. Migrating and wintering species provide the greatest numbers and variety of birds. Refuge ponds are usually dry between May and August, mostly to control disease vectors that arise in the heat of the summer.

Mammals and reptiles can be difficult to find in the daytime, although ground squirrels and coyotes are frequently seen during daylight. Rattlesnakes, and side-blotched, whiptail and western fence lizards can also be easily observed during the day. The best time of year to observe wildlife is Fall through Spring. Refuge ponds are generally dry during the May through August period resulting in limited opportunities for wildlife observation.


Plants       Mammals       Birds      Amphibians & Reptiles       Invertebrates of Kern

Last updated: May 19, 2010