Black-tailed Deer - Habitat

Conboy Lake is blessed with a wide diversity of habitats. There are 11 different habitats, or habitat associations, on the refuge. Each supports a different set of wildlife, and the juxtaposition of habitats creates supports even more species.

Conboy Lake NWR includes a diversity of native habitats centered around the seasonally flooded Conboy Lake wet prairie habitat. Approximately 50% of the refuge is wet prairie; the other habitats in the refuge include mixed conifer, upland meadow, ponderosa pine, ponderosa pine-lodgepole pine, emergent marsh, quaking aspen, Oregon white oak and alder-willow dominated riparian. The refuge’s seasonal wetlands and meadows provide important resting, feeding and breeding areas for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds within the Pacific Flyway. The mosaic of habitats in proximity to extensive seasonal wetlands and coniferous forests results in a diverse assemblage of more than 250 species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Overall, refuge lands are key to healthy populations of wildlife dependent on these rare habitats.

Wet Prairie (Wet Meadow). Wet prairies are characterized by saturated soil and ponding of water up to three-foot deep from October through late June to early July. Ideally, wet prairie areas have a short cover of sedges, rushes, spikerushes and other native/desirable emergents. Native forbs include camas, common monkey flower and potentilla. Wetland prairie habitat covers 3,281 acres, approximately half of Conboy Lake. This habitat is key for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and other waterbirds, as well as aquatic mammals and amphibians. Key species a number of those of federal and state management concern including rosy owl clover, long-bearded sago lily, Oregon coyote thistle, Oregon spotted frog, Sandhill crane and elk. Of particular note, wet meadows represent core breeding habitat for Oregon spotted frogs. In addition, this habitat supports migratory waterfowl, such as mallards, tundra swans, northern pintails and Canada geese.

Emergent Marsh. Emergent marsh habitat is characterized by a 50-50 mosaic of areas of open water and emergent plants. Water depths range from two to four feet from October 1 through late July to September. Common native emergent plants include bulrushes and cattails, and open water supports submerged aquatic plants, such as pondweeds. While limited in acreage, emergent marsh is important to migratory and breeding waterfowl, migrating and breeding greater Sandhill cranes, waterbirds (e.g., Virginia rails, soras, black terns), overwintering and breeding native amphibians (e.g., Oregon spotted frogs) and a diverse assemblage of wetland-dependent plant species.

Streams and Water Delivery Systems. Numerous creeks, ditches and spillways cross the Glenwood Valley floor and drain to Chapman Creek, Camas Ditch, Bird Creek and Outlet Creek. Outlet Creek flows northeast from the refuge to the Klickitat River that drains south to the Columbia River. A series of water control structures are located throughout the refuge that allow management of the hydrologic regime in various units of the refuge. The streams and ditches support Oregon spotted frogs, native fishes (e.g., speckled dace), migratory birds and a diverse assemblage of stream invertebrates.

Springs. There are four springs on the refuge—Willard Spring and three that are unnamed. This habitat can support a diverse assemblage of native species, including overwintering Oregon spotted frogs. However, no biological surveys have been conducted on springs within the refuge, so it is unknown what species actually occupy these springs.

Upland Meadow. Upland meadows are characterized by a diverse mix of grasses and forbs, including bluebunch wheatgrass, blue wildrye, idahoe fescue, Oregon checkermallow, yarrow and asters, as well as limited numbers of woody species such as ponderosa and lodgepole pine. Upland meadows provide habitat for migratory songbirds. Raptors, such as northern harriers, nest and forage in upland meadows. Greater Sandhill cranes, a species of management concern, forage and occasionally nest in upland meadow habitats. The Mardon skipper butterfly relies on native bunchgrasses in upland meadows; on the refuge mardon skippers are limited to two locations, both in upland meadows.

Ponderosa Pine. Ponderosa pine stands on Conboy Lake are relatively dense, compared to the range of natural variation for a ponderosa pine forest. On the refuge these stands are dominated by 80- to 100-year-old ponderosa pines, with smaller numbers of lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and grand fir scattered throughout. Ideally, understory and ground cover include bitterbrush, milk-vetch, snowberry, wild rose, bitterbrush and rabbitbrush. Wildfires naturally maintain the open condition of ponderosa forests by periodically removing understory vegetation from around the large fire-resistant ponderosa pines. Black-backed and white-headed woodpeckers are found in ponderosa pine forests, preferring open, mature stands of ponderosa pine. Both are candidates for listing by the state of Washington as threatened or endangered. Ames’ milk-vetch is a federal species of concern and a state-listed endangered species that is found only on the refuge and adjacent lands. The state-listed threatened western gray squirrel is also present. This habitat also provides cover for a variety of amphibian, reptile, upland migratory bird and mammal species.

Lodgepole/Ponderosa Pine. Conboy Lake supports 587 acres of mixed lodgepole and ponderosa pine forest in upland areas at the eastern, western and southern portions of the refuge. This forest habitat is characterized by 40 to 80 year old pines with small openings in even-aged groups. Ponderosa pines and lodgepole pines show some differences in moisture preference, with lodgepole pines often inhabiting lower lying areas and ponderosa pines in higher and dryer areas. The lodgepole/ponderosa habitat type represents a gradient between these other forest types. The tree density is higher in this forest than in mature ponderosa pine forest. Understory shrubs include snowberry, wild rose, bitterbrush, rabbitbrush, braken fern and various native grasses. Key species supported are migratory songbirds, including the yellow-rumped warbler, Cassin’s finch and mountain chickadee, which nest and forage in ponderosa/lodgepole pine forests. Native mammals, such as elk, deer and Douglas squirrels, may use ponderosa/lodgepole pine forests for nesting, foraging, or cover. Bald eagles, which are a federally listed species of concern and a state sensitive species, nest in mature ponderosa and lodgepole pines. Western gray squirrels may be present in portions of this habitat that are adjacent to oak forest. Black-backed woodpeckers also inhabit ponderosa pine forest and may be present in this habitat on the refuge.

Mixed Conifer. The 926 acres of mixed conifer stands feature a densely populated mix of Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and grand fir. Oregon white oak is also present, in places. These stands are located on north-, west- or east-facing slopes on the edges of the Glenwood Valley in areas with lower moisture stress than on flat or southerly slopes. Stands feature a multi-layered complex forest structure. Mixed conifer forest supports a diverse community of migratory birds and forest-dependent mammal species. Townsend’s warblers, varied thrushes, hermit thrushes and olive-sided flycatchers are focal species for this habitat. These birds use large, older mixed conifer stands for breeding and generally favor mature stands of large trees. The olive-sided flycatcher also favors the edges of openings in this habitat. Where ponderosa pines and Oregon white oak forest are in close proximity, this forest type offers potential western gray squirrel habitat.

Oregon White Oak. Conboy Lake supports 61 acres of Oregon white oak woodlands adjacent to mixed conifer stands, primarily along the BZ-Glenwood Highway. These stands typically are characterized as oak-pine woodland. However, some stands on the refuge are composed almost entirely of Oregon white oak. Oregon white oak woodlands benefit migratory landbirds, foraging greater Sandhill cranes and western gray squirrels, which occurs south of the refuge and may be present on the refuge.

Quaking Aspen. Quaking aspen occupies small stands on a total of 95 acres on the valley floor of the refuge adjacent to wetland areas. Quaking aspens are not long-lived, but they do regenerate from lateral shoots as clones. Young trees need abundant light, so this species occupies recently opened areas. Quaking aspen stands support migratory landbirds, including red-naped sapsuckers, house wrens, western screech owls, tree swallows, northern flickers; raptors, including sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks; and a diverse assemblage of resident species, including ruffed grouse, elk, beavers, porcupines, rabbits and black bears.

Alder and Willow. Alder and willow-dominated riparian habitat covers about 35 acres along the stream channels in the refuge. This riparian corridor shades stream channels, provides organic material and provides habitat for a diverse assemblage of resident and migratory wildlife species. Key bird species supported include wood ducks, willow flycatchers, yellow warblers, song sparrows, spotted towhees, red shouldered hawks and ruffed grouse. Mammals supported include deer and elk.