Wildlife & Habitat

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The diverse landscape of the refuge with over 3,000 acres of wetlands, 200 acres of aspen riparian areas, 10,000 acres of ponderosa pine forest and 4,000 acres of prairie supports a high diversity of wildlife species. Birds are the most numerous group of vertebrate wildlife with over 200 species using the refuge, 124 of these species nest here including several waterfowl species, marshbirds, shorebirds and songbirds. There are 45 species of mammals that call the refuge home including 11 species of bats, Rocky Mountain elk, moose, cougar, badgers, beaver and flying squirrels. Twelve reptile and amphibian species have been observed in refuge habitats including the rubber boa, long-toed and tiger salamanders. By far the most abundant group of animals on the refuge are the invertebrates. The refuge is currently working on compiling a list of species. A recent butterfly inventory has identified 51 species on the refuge.

  • Birds

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    We can thank the birds and especially migratory waterfowl for the creation of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. It was concern for dwindling migratory bird populations and the loss of wetlands through drainage for farming that prompted the establishment of the Refuge in 1937 to protect some of the last remaining undrained scabland wetlands. 

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  • Mammals

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    Forty-five species of mammals ranging from the diminutive wandering shrew to the Rocky Mountain elk are found on the refuge in all of its habitats. 

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  • Amphibians & Reptiles

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    Relatively few species of herptiles (reptiles and amphibians) are found on the refuge. The beautiful rubber boa and yellow-bellied racer are among the 5 species of snakes at Turnbull. Western painted turtles can often be observed basking on logs in the wetlands, and the western skink is the only lizard species. Look for a flash of blue from the tail of a juvenile skink near talus in the open Ponderosa pine forest. The long-toed and tiger salamanders and 2 species of frogs make their home here. Listen for the chorus of tree frogs, aptly named the Pacific Chorus Frog in the early evening hours.     


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  • Fish

    Redside Shiner

    The speckled dace and redside shiner, native species found in the Pine Creek wetlands of Turnbull, now constitute less than 1% of the fish population according to a study conducted by Eastern Washington University in 2002. Two exotic species, the brook stickleback and pumpkinseed that make up more than 95% of the fish population, are quickly replacing our natives.

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  • Endangered Species

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    There are only two threatened species found on the refuge, Spalding's catchfly and water howellia. These plants are associated with steppe and wetland habitat, respectively.

  • Habitat

    Refuge Habitat

    The unique geologic history of the refuge landscape, its geographic location and resulting climate has created a diverse mosaic of open steppe habitats, ponderosa pine forest, wetlands, and riparian habitats dominated by aspen.

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