Wildlife & Habitat

Great egrets at Champion Lake / Gary Holmes ©

Wood ducks spend their summers on the refuge where they nest in the cavities of large cypress trees. Raccoons leave hand-shaped prints on muddy river banks and river otters frolic through the tea-colored waters. High above, Rafinesque's big-eared bats navigate the mature forest during their nightly hunt for moths.

The refuge’s cypress-studded-lake and bottomland hardwood forest provides important breeding, wintering, and stopover habitat for a variety of migratory and resident wildlife. A diversity of waterfowl and numerous neotropical songbirds depend on the bottomland hardwood forests, forested swamps, open water and wet pastures. More than 275 species of birds occur in the bottomland forests and associated wetlands in eastern Texas, including an estimated 100 bird species known to breed here.

The upland areas of the refuge include natural pine and mixed pine-hardwood forest and cultivated pastures. Historically, this area of East Texas has played a key role in sustaining continental and Central Flyway waterfowl populations. In fact, East Texas and southeastern Oklahoma bottomlands represent the only significant breeding habitat of the wood duck and perhaps the most important wintering area of the mallard in the Central Flyway.

Although not fully surveyed, it is estimated the refuge contains more than 650 different kinds of plants, a diversity that offers wildlife places to nest, rest, feed, and raise their young. The landscape supports abundant populations of white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcat, and an estimated 900 types of butterflies and moths and two dozen species of reptiles, including alligators and cottonmouth snakes.