Wildlife & Habitat

winter eagle

Wetlands Attract Wildlife at Muscatatuck

Approximately 290 different species of birds have been recorded on Muscatatuck and new species appear almost every year. The wetlands, forests, brushlands, and grasslands of the refuge provide excellent habitat for most Indiana mammals and several reptiles and amphibians, including the copperbelly water snake, Kirtlands snake, and four-toed salamander, that are on the Indiana threatened and endangered list have been found here.  In winter thousands of greater sandhill cranes spend the winter in the area, often spending the night in refuge wetlands while spending their days feeding off-refuge in harvested farm fields.

Wetlands are the main attraction for wildlife at Muscatatuck and the "Moss Lake Swamp" (most of which is in the refuge "Closed Area") has attracted wildlife for hundreds of years. Small springs, meandering and flood-prone creeks, and poorly drained ground come together at Muscatatuck to create permanent and seasonal wetlands. Heavy rain events that cause flooding (and close the Auto Tour) commonly occur three or four times a year. Numerous old farm ponds provide habitat for turtles, frogs, salamanders, and dragonflies. Richart and Stanfield lakes provide deeper water habitat for waterfowl, grebes, cormorants, bald eagles, and aquatic animals. Moist soil units and marshes, when full of water, attract waterfowl and wading birds.The wooded floodplain of the Muscatatuck River is the soggiest part of the refuge during flood events and can be challenging to explore at many times of the year. Some former landowners who farmed the area in the 1940's have reported there were once swamp rabbits and massassaga rattlesnakes here (but none have been documented). In the early 1900's passenger pigeons were recorded migrating through the area. 

There have been 43 different species of mammals, 33 species of dragonflies, 60 species of butterflies, 44 species of reptiles and amphibians,92 species of fish, and 24 species of mussels found on the refuge. For a complete listing of wildlife species please click on the links as follows: birds, mammals, dragonflies, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians, fish, and mussels.