Wildlife & Habitat

Southern Copperhead snake

  • Prothonotary Warbler

    Prothonotary Warbler 150x118

    The prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea), locally called the swamp canary, is a common spring and summer resident of Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge(NWR). It is easily recognizable because of its brilliant yellow plumage, making it fairly easy to spot in the forest. While on the refuge, some of these birds are just making a stop on their annual migration, but most are using the wooded swamps and bottomland forests of the refuge to nest and raise their young. They are one of only two warbler species that nest in cavities, and tend to prefer tree cavities located near or over standing water. Because these birds are becoming less common in floodplain forests that do not experience regular flooding, the presence or absence of this bird is sometimes used to indicate the integrity of a bottomland hardwood forest. Luckily, much of the bottomland forest located on Dale Bumpers White River NWR experiences regular flooding and has an abundance of these birds.

  • Black Bear

    Black Bear

    The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is an annual resident of Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge that once ranged statewide in Arkansas but was largely extirpated during the 1940’s and 50’s. Despite heavy harvest and changes in land use, a remnant population survived this period in the river bottoms of Dale Bumpers White River NWR. During the early 1940’s, the refuge’s bear population was thought to have declined to approximately 25; however, research in the early 2000’s estimated the population to be approximately 350. While northern Arkansas was repopulated with bears moved from northern states during the 1950’s and 60’s, the lower White River basin population was not supplemented and is considered genetically representative of the historic bear population that existed in the Lower Mississippi Valley of Arkansas. 

    In order for black bears to thrive, they require food, water, escape cover, den sites and dispersal areas. Black bears are opportunistic omnivores and food habits often reflect local food availability. In general, seasonal food habits include use of succulent vegetation, fruits, grains, hard mast and animal matter (most frequently insects but will opportunistically scavenge on dead animals).

    The bears of Dale Bumpers White River NWR are highly dependent on large trees (greater than 36 inches wide) with cavities that are used as tree dens during the typical annual inundation of the floodplain forest from the White River. Den sites provide shelter and security during the denning season, which generally extends from early December through late-April, particularly for reproducing females. Dale Bumpers White River NWR black bears are a true success story. They have persisted through the years, and eventually reached a population size capable of sustaining an annual hunting season since 2001 and, at one point, 42 adult females and their 92 cubs had to be relocated to Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Arkansas.  


  • Wood Duck

    Wood ducks

    Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) are annual residents of Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. They are most likely to be seen in forested wetlands, shrub swamps, tree-lined rivers or streams, sloughs and beaver ponds. Wood ducks feed on acorns, other soft and hard mast, grass seeds, grain and invertebrates. They are cavity nesters, seeking tree cavities within a mile of water. The extensive bottomland hardwood forests and associated water bodies on Dale Bumpers White River NWR provide countless cavities and ideal brood rearing habitat for wood ducks.  

    Each summer, Dale Bumpers White River NWR participates in a wood duck banding program in which ducks are captured and fitted with an aluminum leg band. Each band has a unique identifier number and a phone number used to report when the band is recovered through hunting or some other mortality to the duck. Ducks are captured using rocket nets and then aged, sexed, and banded. Later, when a banded duck is harvested by a hunter, the band return data provides information on migration patterns, age, population size, etc. During the summer of 2012, staff at Dale Bumpers White River NWR banded a total of 118 wood ducks. As of the end of the 2013-14 waterfowl hunting season (2 hunting seasons since they were banded), only 3 of the 118 banded ducks have been harvested and reported by hunters; one of which was harvested near the gulf coast in Mississippi. 


  • Lakes and Ponds

    Lakes 150x118

    There are over 300 lakes and ponds located throughout Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. Lakes and ponds are a welcoming oasis to many animals from all types of habitats, which supply drinking water, food, a breeding place, underwater escape, and a break from insects. Wildlife you may see in and around this habitat include: salamanders, frogs, turtles, water snakes, beavers, ducks, bald-eagles, white-tailed deer, and American black bear.

  • Bottomland Hardwood Forest

    Bottomland Hardwood Forest

    The majority of the refuge lies within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and is comprised of Bottomland Hardwood Forests. This type of forest is one of the South’s most productive living communities.  In their humid, tangled depth, more than 70 species of trees grow and support an abundance of flowering plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.  Because the Bottomland Hardwood Forest is frequently flooded, it is a forest type highly affected by land elevation. The types of plants that occur will change with the elevation –even as little as six-inch changes in elevation will change the plant species composition of a given area. Bottomland Hardwoods serve a critical role in the environment -reducing the impact of flooding on downstream communities by providing areas to store floodwater. These wetlands improve water quality by filtering nutrients and organic wastes, and reducing sediment before it reaches open water. The Bottomland Hardwood Forest is also highly valuable to wildlife.  Some type of food source is always available because the forest produces acorns, berries, and seeds year-round. Just 20-25 percent of the Bottomland Hardwood Forests that once occurred across Arkansas remain. Dale Bumpers White River NWR contains a critical fragment of this once vast forest type, and is part of a larger patchwork of protected lands creating an important habitat corridor for wildlife sustained by the Bottomland Hardwood Forest.   

  • White River

    White River 150x118

    Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge is impacted by several rivers, bayous, streams and sloughs, but the main factors are the White River and the Mississippi River.  The White River flows 93 miles through the refuge. Though the Mississippi River doesn’t run through the refuge at all, it has a profound impact on the refuge ecosystem.  Together these two rivers create a phenomenon called “backing and stacking”.  The White River landscape is shaped like an hourglass with the smallest constriction being near Highway 1, due to the levee and minimal openings to allow water flow.  “Backing” occurs when the Mississippi River rises and the constriction causes a backup, forcing water up the White River and flooding the surrounding woods.  “Stacking” happens when the White River rises and runs into the backwater of from the Mississippi River, stacking up water on the White River and forcing water over the riverbanks and into the surrounding woods.  With over 300 ponds and lakes, this process enables the fish resources to be restocked each time the White River rises over its banks.  This allows for a very good fishing season for most fisherman visiting the refuge.