Wildlife & Habitat

Wildlife and Habitat

 The refuge was established in 1985 for the protection and conservation of this unique environment as well as migratory and resident wildlife. Banks Lake is natural pocosin or sink of ancient geologic origin. The refuge contains a variety of habitat types including 1,000 acres of marsh, 1,644 acres of cypress swamp, 900 acres of open water, and 15 acres of uplands.

  • Alligator

    Gator eyes

    An alligator's eyes glow red under a flashlight at night.  Alligators typically hunt at night in the warm months, but they are opportunistic and will take whatever comes their way. 

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  • Osprey

    Osprey Landing

    Ospreys were among the raptors losing populations due to the pesticide DDT in the 1960's and 1970's.  Their populations have rebounded since DDT was banned, and these magnificent birds of prey are commonly seen and heard near shallow water.

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  • Sandhill Cranes

    Sandhill Crane

    Sandhill cranes migrate from their breeding grounds in northern states, and can sometimes congregate in large groups.  Typically, though, they are seen around Banks Lake in small family groups.

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  • Cypress Swamp


    The presence of cypress in a lake indicates areas of shallower water, and Banks Lake is rimmed with 1,644 acres of cypress swamp. White water lilies dot these shallow waters in the warm months, their fragrant flowers opening in the morning and closing by mid-afternoon. Beards of Spanish moss hang from the cypress, giving a primeval and oh-so-Southern feel to this swampy lake.

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  • Open Water

    Open Water

    The center of the lake is much deeper, and 900 acres of it is open water with very few trees and several small, floating islands. It tends to be windier on the open water, but you can get good views of the A-10 Thunderbolt Warthogs firing Gatling guns at ground targets from nearby Moody Air Force Base.

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