Wildlife & Habitat

Buffalo calf cow / USFWS

The habitats found within the refuge and Rio Mora Conservation Area provide important life-cycle needs for a variety of waterfowl and neo-tropical migratory birds, along with many other species dependent on the riparian, grassland, woodland, and wetland habitats.


Northeastern New Mexico has historically been an important migration and wintering area for waterfowl in the Central Flyway, particularly Canada geese. The rolling high plains along the eastern slope of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, scattered with numerous playa lakes, are a haven for waterfowl and sandhill cranes during the fall and winter months. 

The most significant habitats of the 952,000-acre watershed include shortgrass prairie punctuated by piñon-juniper and ponderosa pine woodlands. The habitat found along the Mora River includes dense willow thickets with scattered cottonwood trees. Within the refuge, the river’s canyon reaches depths of 300 feet and has numerous side canyons with permanent seeps, springs, and ponds. 

Many unique species can be found on the refuge all or part of the year, including the long-billed curlew and American bison (buffalo).