Wildlife & Habitat

Pond with beaver lodge

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

  • Trumpeter Swan

    Swan and Cygnets

    In the late 1880s, trumpeter swans disappeared from Minnesota. In 1987, the Refuge teamed up with the state in their efforts to restore these magnificent birds and the first of several young adults was released in Jim’s Marsh. Today there are more than 30 successful nesting pairs on the Refuge and an estimated 5,500 birds around the state. The comeback of the trumpeter swan has been described as one of the most successful restorations of a once-endangered wildlife species. Listen for their brassy call and look for them loafing among beds of wild rice. Although they have been seen year round at the Refuge, April through October is the best time for viewing.

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  • Golden-winged Warbler

    Golden-winged Warbler

    The golden-winged warbler is a small migratory bird with a distinct black facial pattern similar to that of chickadees. Minnesota provides breeding habitat for 42% of the entire global population of this warbler. Tamarac provides ideal habitat for this species. Golden-wing populations are declining throughout all of their range. The current population is less than a fourth of what it was 40 years ago making it one of the steepest declines of any North American species. Tamarac researchers are studying habitat preferences, nesting success and other critical information about this declining species.

    Listen for the "zee bee bee bee" along the woodland edges of lakes in the spring and in early successional forests with sparse trees and shrubs through the summer.

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  • Gray Wolf

    Gray Wolf

    The gray wolf is elusive, however some visitors do have the opportunity to capture a glimpse of this powerful forest dweller. Wolves are social animals that live in groups, called packs. Biologists estimate that there are two packs using the Refuge. They have initiated a monitoring program that will give insight to the wolf activity on the Refuge. The recovery of the wolf population in the Great Lakes area has been a success and it has been taken off the endangered species list. Minnesota’s wolf population has been above federal recovery goals since 1989. The state’s management plan will ensure the long-term survival of this species and we will continue to monitor wolf populations.

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  • Deciduous Forest

    Deciduous Forest

    This lush habitat includes aspen, paper birch, oak, red and sugar maple, basswood and other broadleaf trees. Woodland ferns and variety of wildflowers such as hepatica, yellow lady-slippers, and trillium carpet the forest floor. Green ash, black ash and occasionally American elm are found along sluggish streams, swamp edges and in depressions within the upland hardwoods. The lowland forests are teeming with marsh marigolds in the spring. These forests support ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and more than 25 species of warblers.

  • Coniferous Forest

    Coniferous Forest

    The coniferous forests of the Refuge consist primarily of jack pine, red pine, white pine. In low areas you’ll find conifers such as tamarack, black spruce and balsam fir. Red and white pines once dominated this landscape. After significant logging in the 1900s these stands comprise only a small percentage of the Refuge today. Pine stand restorations are underway and benefit several species including the bald eagle, black-backed woodpecker and red crossbills.

  • Marshes and Wetlands


    Tamarac is in the heart of Minnesota’s Lake Country. Twenty-eight shallow lakes lie within the Refuge and three rivers flow through the Refuge, while marshes and wooded potholes number several thousand. Many Refuge lakes and rivers contain large native wild rice beds that produce abundant food for waterfowl and other wetland dependent species. The vernal ponds sing with frogs in the spring, while tamarack bogs glow a spectacular gold late in the fall.