American Bittern 308x448



Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is a place of constant change. Changing seasons bring dramatic variations of temperatures, precipitation, day length, and plant growth. As the seasons change, so do the species and abundance of wildlife present on the refuge. (American Bittern shown here.) 



  • Birds

    Short Eared Owl

    The concentration of wetland, grassland, and cropland found on and adjacent to Lacreek NWR provides habitat for a very diverse bird population. A total of 282 different bird species have been recorded at the Refuge since 1959. The majority of bird species common to the Great Plains can be found here, along with some unique species for South Dakota. Trumpeter swans were released on the Refuge in the early 1960s. A high count of 386 was recorded in November of 2007, with 100 to 300 typically present from October through March. Lacreek NWR is one of the few places in South Dakota where you may hear both an eastern and a western meadowlark while standing in the same location. American bitterns are commonly observed at the Refuge from April through September. 

    Fifty-one species of waterfowl, pelicans, cormorants, herons, and ibises use the Refuge for migration and/or nesting. Fourty-four species of rails, plovers, turnstones, sandpipers, stilts and gulls have been documented on the Refuge. Of those, 16 species nest here. Twenty-five species of hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls hunt the Refuge's abundant prey base. Lacreek NWR is a great place to see many of the Great Plains representative bird species along with a chance for some unique ones. For a complete list of bird species, check out our bird list. 

    Short eared owls, like the one pictured here, hunt the Refuge's grasslands for prairie voles and other small mammals.

  • Mammals


    The habitat provided at Lacreek NWR supports a wide diversity of mammals that are commonly found on the Great Plains. The Refuge's wetlands host species such as muskrat (shown here), beaver, mink, short-tailed and long-tailed weasel, raccoon, white-tailed deer, and meadow voles. The grasslands support species such as mule deer, black-tailed prairie dog, badger, deer mice, Ord's kangaroo rat, white-tailed jackrabbit, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, and coyote.

    For a complete list of mammals found at Lacreek NWR, see our species list (28KB PDF).

  • Fish

    Walleye Art

    The springs which flow through the Refuge support the pearl dace and northern redbelly dace. Both of these species are listed by the State of South Dakota as State Threatened and are a unique Refuge inhabitant. The Trout Ponds support rainbow trout which are stocked twice each year for recreational fisheries. The Little White River Recreation Area was drawn down and renovated in 2007. It has been restocked with channel catfish, yellow perch, bluegill, largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye in 2008. The remainder of the Refuges wetlands are managed for migratory birds and are periodically drawn down and allowed to dry out in the summer months. This limits the number and species which survive. Common carp, black bullhead, and fat head minnows are some of the only species which can find limited locations to survive the drawdowns and repopulate the wetlands when filled again. These three fish species are a common prey item for the many species of heron, egret, bittern, grebe, pelican, cormorant, merganser, goldeneye, tern, and eagle found using the Refuge's wetlands.

    For a complete list of fish found at Lacreek NWR, see our species list (20KB PDF).

    Details about select areas of the Refuge open to recreational fishing can be found on our Visitor Activities page.

  • Insects


    A diverse array of insects typically found in prairie and wetland environments are present at Lacreek NWR. Many of our management practices include increasing or maintaining our abundance of insects for prairie and wetland birds as a management objective. Research has shown that insects as prey play a key dietary role for birds that allow for egg laying, feather replacement, and muscle tissue growth. Reseeding a diverse mix of grassland plant species provides more opportunities for insects to complete lifecycles. Managing our wetlands through prescribed grazing and burning, seeding a diverse mix of native plants, and water level manipulations increases the amount of desirable plant material available for aquatic insects to feed on and complete lifecycles.

    Butterflies like this Monarch are a diverse group of insects that are often very noticeable. There have been 47 species of butterflies documented on Lacreek NWR. Many are attracted to showy wildflowers such as milkweed and goldenrods. Many are tiny and rarely noticed, living out their lifecycles in upland grasslands. A few, such as the regal fritillary, are uncommon and are only found on unbroken tracts of native prairies. See our Butterfly Species List (28KB PDF) for a complete listing.

  • Reptiles and Amphibians

    Lesser Earless Lizard

    The Northern Great Plains long cold winters limit the abundance and diversity of reptile and amphibian species which can survive here. A number of snakes live here due to the abundant prey base. Prairie rattlesnakes prefer the open ground of the black-tailed prairie dog towns and often retreat into a burrow to escape the heat of the day. They generally avoid the wetlands and denser vegetation of the uplands that the bullsnake prefers. The plains garter snake is common throughout the Refuge. Other species include the hognose snake and the green racer. Lizards are a rare sight at Lacreek NWR. The Sandhills' portion of the Refuge, however, supports lesser earless lizard (pictured here), prairie lizard, and many-lined skink, species generally only found in the Sandhills portion of South Dakota. Several species of frogs can be heard more often than they are seen. The boreal chorus frog, northern leopard frog, bullfrog, and plains spadefoot are the most common. The painted turtle and the snapping turtle are found in the Refuge's wetlands. They survive the winter by burrowing into one of the many springs and seeps.

    For a complete list of reptiles and amphibians found at Lacreek NWR, see our species list (21KB PDF). 

  • Endangered Species

    150x118 Bald Eagle

    The federally endangered whooping crane migration corridor passes over Lacreek NWR. In recent years during both the spring and fall migration, whooping cranes have been documented using the Refuge's wet meadows. They generally stay a night or two and then continue on. The federally threatened American burying beetle was documented as occurring in Bennett County in 2007. Past surveys of the Refuge have not detected this species. Suitable habitat and the nearby sighting makes it likely that American burying beetles may be found on the refuge and have yet to be detected. 

    The federally endangered western prairie fringed orchid has not been detected in past refuge surveys. Suitable habitat exists, and it is possible that it is present at such a low frequency that it has not been detected. Future surveys are planned.

    The state of South Dakota maintains a threatened and endangered species list as well. It designates species of concern that occur in low numbers or in restricted habitats. The bald eagle, osprey and peregrine falcon are included on the state threatened list. Lacreek NWR has one nesting pair of bald eagles that has successfully fledged at least one eaglet in 2006 and 2007. Up to 100 bald eagles may be present during December - March when large concentrations of waterfowl or winter killed fish are present. Osprey are rarely sighted at the Refuge; however, a half dozen or more sightings are recorded on the Refuge each fall and each spring of peregrine falcons. Peregrines usually are spotted hunting shorebirds or teal on the refuge. Piping plovers are listed as state threatened and are rarely sighted on the Refuge during migration. The swift fox is also listed as state threatened. Although swift fox releases have been made to the west of Lacreek NWR, only one probable sighting has been documented on the Refuge.

    As was mentioned in the fish section, the pearl dace and northern redbelly dace are state listed as threatened in South Dakota and both can be found in the Refuge's spring fed streams.

    Visit the South Dakota Ecological Services Field Office Web Site.