Wildlife & Habitat

Pelicans on lodge-Mike Shipman-512x219

Wildlife needs a variety of habitats for food, shelter, and raising young. Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge is an oasis for wildlife and is managed to improve and maintain wildlife habitat. Habitats at Deer Flat include wetlands, riparian forests, uplands, and croplands at the Lake Lowell sector, as well as the 101 Snake River Islands.

  • Refuge bird list

    Over 250 bird species have been observed at the Refuge and over 100 nest on the Refuge.

    Learn More
  • Wetlands


    In spring and summer, water is released from Lake Lowell to irrigate surrounding farm fields. This slow draw-down of the lake exposes mud flats that provide abundant habitat for shorebirds. The lake also produces a bumper crop of aquatic vegetation for birds to feed on, particularly smartweed. In fall, smartweed seeds provide a feast for migratory ducks heading south. In winter, Lake Lowell is home to as many as 150,000 ducks and 15,000 Canada geese, and to the many bald eagles and other raptors attracted to the bounty provided by the large flocks of waterfowl. The refuge also has marsh areas where the water is manipulated to provide feeding, nesting, and resting habitat for mallards, sora rails, yellow-headed blackbirds, and other wildlife. You can see the current water level of Lake Lowell.

  • Riparian Forests


    Areas near the lake, as well as many of the refuge islands, are forested with predominantly cottonwood, peachleaf willow, and coyote willow. These forested areas provide food, nesting sites, and cover from predators for a variety of tree-dependent species. Refuge managers maintain these forests by removing invasive trees like Russian olives and salt cedars. These invasives crowd out desirable trees that are more valuable to wildlife. Managers also set prescribed fires to improve wildlife habitat and to reduce fuel loads.

  • Uplands


    Sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and the bunchgrass Great Basin wild rye dominate the uplands near the lake and on the islands. Large blocks of this native habitat can be visited just west of the Visitor Center and on several of the larger refuge islands. Herbivores like rabbits, gophers, mule deer, and grasshoppers, feed on upland plants and rely on those plants for nesting sites and cover. These animals may later be eaten by predators such as foxes, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, or American kestrels.

  • Croplands


    Farming at Deer Flat can be "for the birds." Approximately 240 acres of refuge land is irrigated cropland that, when possible, is managed to provide food and cover for wildlife. Local farmers grow corn, beans, peas, wheat, and alfalfa. These farmers use modern soil-conservation techniques, such as filter strips, and apply minimal pesticides and fertilizers. The farmers keep a share of the crop and leave the rest for wildlife. Pheasants, deer, and other wildlife feed and nest in these fields. In fall and winter, local Canada geese, as well as migrant geese and other waterfowl from the north, harvest the abundant food available in refuge fields.

  • Snake River Islands


    The 101 islands of the Snake River sector are distributed along 113 river miles between the Canyon-Ada County line in Idaho and Farewell Bend in Oregon. The islands provide a variety of habitats, including areas dominated by grasses, sagebrush, and trees such as maples, box elders and cottonwoods.Because they provide a riparian corridor in a Sagebrush habitat for Canada geese, ducks, herons, shorebirds, gulls, cormorants, and various songbirds. Refuge managers use prescribed fire to maintain nesting habitat on the islands. In addition, to protect nesting birds, the islands are closed to all public entry from February 1 to May 31.