Wildlife & Habitat

Coyote caught a duck/USFWS

Of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

  • Wildlife

    Jackrabbit close-up/USFWS

    Bitter Lake is an ecological crossroad where the Chihuahuan Desert meets short grass prairie, the Pecos River and the Roswell artesian basin. The blending of these different ecological conditions has created some unusual biological conditions.  Here you will find wetland-dependent species interacting with desert creatures.

    The abundant water supply draws a documented 357 species of birds to the refuge.  This in addition to the 59 species of mammals, more than 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, 24 types of fish, and more than 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies are found in this oasis.

    The refuge’s wetlands provide habitat for thousands of migrating lesser sandhill cranes, Ross and snow geese and about 20 duck species, including northern pintails, mallards, canvasbacks, gadwalls, northern shovelers and four species of teal; the cinnamon, American, green and blue-wing, and blue-wing.

  • Habitat

    Butterfly on a coneflower/USFWS

    Scattered across Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge are more than 70 natural sinkholes of different shapes and sizes. Created by groundwater erosion, these water habitats form isolated communities of fish, invertebrates, amphibians and other wildlife.  Added to that are the flowing streams, rivers, playa lakes, and brackish waters of the refuge’s namesake, Bitter Lake.  The refuge is here to protect these systems and the wildlife that depend on them, including many native fish that are only found within the Pecos River drainage.

    The unusually diverse wetlands combined with its gypsum karst topography support a variety of plant and animal communities that thrive on the refuge.  The native grasslands, vegetated sand dunes, brushy bottomlands, and red-rimmed plateaus provide a sharp contrast to the marshlands of Bitter Lake.