Wildlife & Habitat

Undisturbed grasslands / Jude Smith, USFWS

The short grass prairie found on Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge provides a glimpse of what the prairie looked like several hundred years ago – with an exception of about 100 acres, the 6,440 acres of grasslands have never seen a plow.

Grassland prairie has very nearly disappeared in the United States, which makes the refuge’s efforts to protect this habitat especially important. The large tracts of intact grasslands offer wildlife places to rest, nest and feed. Raptors like golden eagles and Swainson's hawks can be seen soaring above looking for a meal, including Jack rabbits and bull snakes. Black-tailed prairie dogs bustle between prairie dog towns, their complex tunnels attracting badgers and rattlesnakes and providing residence to burrowing owls. 

Situated within the refuge’s short-grass prairie are three main playa lakes, Goose, White, and Paul’s. The shallow sink-like lakes have no source of water other than rainfall and they do not drain into any outlets. Combined, they provide nearly 600 acres of water for wildlife when full and are especially important to migratory birds within the Central flyway, including pintail, green-winged teal, ruddy ducks and sandhill cranes. The cranes typically begin arriving in September with peak numbers between December and February. In 2005, an estimated 250,000 sandhills were documented on Muleshoe Refuge, the largest concentration in North America.

On the north and west boundaries of the refuge, the caprock escarpment emerges. It is the geological boundary where High Plains transition into the vast plains of West Texas -- it stretches from the Texas Panhandle into Central Texas. Rising along the edges of the West Texas prairie, the escarpment’s low-lying, sandy hills provide excellent habitat for mule deer, fox and coyotes, which can be seen traveling along the escarpment’s rimrock. 

Check out the Refuge's Birds Fact Sheet