Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge consists of over 53,000 acres of cypress swamps, bottomland hardwood forest, moist soils, agriculture, and upland pine/hardwoods. The diversity of ecosystems provides habitat for many species of wildlife. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker inhabits the upland loblolly pine forest on the western edge of the refuge. Bottomland hardwood forest is home to Neotropical migratory songbirds, wintering waterfowl, deer, squirrels, and the Louisiana black bear. The many baldcypress swamps provide habitat for nesting wood ducks, wading birds, and bats, including the Rafinesque's big-eared bat. Agriculture and moist soil provide habitat for migrating shorebirds and wintering waterfowl.

  • Red-cockaded Woodpecker


    Red-cockaded woodpeckers are Federally endangered birds that live in southern pine forests. They require old pine stands with an open understory maintained historically with wildfire. These birds are cooperative breeders meaning that offspring from previous years often stay with their parents to help raise the nestlings. The red-cockaded woodpecker is the only one which excavates cavities exclusively in living pine trees. They choose trees usually over 80 years old which often have the heartwood fungus causing the wood to become soft. The lack of fire in pine ecosystems and the loss of old pine forests have largely contributed to the red-cockaded woodpecker's decline.

  • Waterfowl


    Over a dozen species of ducks spend their winters on Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge. Some of the more common species include mallard, green-winged teal, pintail, gadwall, northern shoveler, ring-necked duck, and canvasback. Wood ducks, hooded mergansers and black-bellied whistling ducks nest in tree cavities on the refuge.

  • Bald Eagle


    The nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, has made an impressive comeback from near extinction. The insecticide DDT accumulated in the food chain causing eagles’ eggs to become fragile and break easily. Today, visitors to the refuge have a good possibility of seeing a bald eagle, particularly during the winter over refuge waters. Bald eagles have been recorded nesting on the refuge now for 15 years. Eagles begin nesting in December through February and usually lay 1-3 eggs. Both parents work to raise the eaglets, which can take two to three months after they hatch. Eagles mostly eat fish but will also scavenge.

  • Bottomland Hardwood Forest

    Bottomland hardwood forest - Promo list - 150 x 118

    Historically bottomland hardwood forests covered the Mississippi River floodplain. These forested wetlands flood seasonally, most often in the winter and spring. These periods of inundated forest provide structure for spawning fish and food for wintering ducks. Dynamic floods allow nutrient cycling, prevent sedimentation, and disperse plant seeds. Today only 20% of bottomland hardwood forest is left, and what remains is highly fragmented and of reduced quality. Hydrological modifications of rivers with the use of dams, levees and channelization have contributed to the degradation of these forested wetlands. The vast majority of Upper Ouachita NWR is bottomland hardwood forest comprised of willow oak, Nuttall oak, overcup oak and water hickory. The Columbia Lock & Dam causes the flooding to occur deeper and longer into the growing season than what naturally would have occurred.

  • Upland Pine Flatwood Forest


    Upland pine flatwood forest is present on the western edge of the refuge. This habitat type stays fairly wet and has mostly loblolly pines mixed with willow oak, post oak, and red oak. These flatwoods have gone through a tremendous loss in Arkansas and Louisiana to where extensive coverage is mainly left on three National Wildlife Refuges: Felsenthal, D’Arbonne and Upper Ouachita. These remnant flatwoods must be managed with fire to create historical conditions such as pine/hardwood mix with a somewhat open canopy and grassy understories.

  • Louisiana Black Bear

    Bear Cubs - Promo List - 150 x 118

    The Louisiana Black Bear is one of 16 recognized subspecies of the American black bear, and was once widespread in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. With large-scale conversion of millions of acres of bottomland hardwood forests in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley to agriculture, habitat loss severely impacted bear populations.

    The Louisiana black bear is an opportunistic omnivore who mostly eats fruits, nuts, plants, and insects. While they do consume meat, but it is generally carrion or an opportunistic kill Distribution and abundance of food have a direct correlation to Louisiana black bear movement. If food is abundant and easy to find, bears don't have to move very far. Males typically move much farther than females in search of mates and young males may travel extreme distances dispersing from their families.

    Females reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years of age. Bears breed in the summer, generally from June to August, and cubs are born in the den in late winter. Dens are usually in tree cavities or on the ground. Cubs usually stay with their mother until their second summer, when they leave her and begin searching for their own territory.