Wildlife viewing and photography opportunities are abundant on the refuge. During spring and fall migration, up to 17 species of waterfowl and more than 23 species of shorebirds can be seen. Look for waterfowl species such as mallards, blue-winged teal, Canada geese, and northern shovelers. Common shorebird species encountered are killdeer, yellowlegs, and sandpipers. Visitors also have the chance to see birds of prey like bald eagles, red-tailed hawk, and kestrel. During the spring and summer months, birds such as the bobolink, meadowlark, marsh wren, and Virginia rail breed and nest on the refuge.
Other animals to look for year round include beaver, mink, white-tailed deer, and river otters while spring and summer offer chances to see thirteen-lined ground squirrel, snapping turtles, frogs, and salamanders. For a detailed list of wildlife on the refuge see the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge species list.