What We Do
The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.
Management and Conservation
Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. Some refuges use prescribed fires to mimic natural fires that would have cleared old vegetation from the land helping native plants regenerate and local wildlife to thrive. Other refuges contain Wilderness areas where land is largely managed in passively. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. At this field station our conservation toolbox includes: prescribed burns, wetland management, protecting native species and trapping.
Historically, wildfire was an integral part of the coastal prairie ecosystem. Today, prescribed burns are recognized as the primary habitat management tool at Aransas Refuge. Federal wildland firefighters conduct controlled burns on the refuge’s live oak savannah and native coastal grassland communities. With an average of 10,000 acres burned every year since 1990, fire has proven effective at controlling and even reversing significant challenges with invasive and exotic plant species.
For more than two decades the refuge has used fall and early winter fires (October to early January) to improve winter feeding areas for whooping cranes. Usually within a day or two of the burn, whooping cranes can be seen feeding in the area. Prescribed burns done in late summer provide a regrowth of grasses and forbs for waterfowl and sandhill cranes returning to the refuge for the winter.
Refuge fire staff monitor weather and fuel conditions to ensure the burns achieve the best results for the habitat. They work with other partners, public and private, to protect people and property and maintain healthy and productive ecosystems.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has more than 24,000 acres of natural and managed wetlands. Wetland types range from salt marshes along the bays to brackish and freshwater wetlands within the Blackjack Peninsula and Matagorda Island Unit. On the Myrtle-Foester Whitmire Unit, biologists manage moist soil impoundments that provide habitat for wintering waterfowl and breeding mottled ducks. Seeds and plant parts (leaves, roots, and tubers) in the moist soil impoundments provide energy and essential nutrients for wintering waterfowl. These wetlands also support abundant and diverse populations of invertebrates, including insects - an important protein source for waterfowl. Water levels are raised or lowered in the impoundments depending on the time of year and types of birds using the refuge.
Protecting Native Species:
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is actively involved in protecting and restoring habitat through the control of invasive and exotic plant and animal species. All control efforts conducted on the refuge are designed to improve the conditions for native plant and wildlife populations.
Exotic and invasive plants will often out-compete native plants for sunlight, water and other critical resources. Their value to wildlife is minimal and because these plants did not evolve here, they have no natural predators. The refuge has several invasive plant species including saltcedar, Chinese tallow, alligator weed, and McCartney rose. On the refuge, invasive vegetation is controlled by a combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical methods as well as by the application of prescribed fire. To manage invasive animals, we partner with USDA-APHIS to control feral hogs.
Trapping Occurs on this Refuge:
Trapping is a wildlife management tool used on some national wildlife refuges. Trapping may be used to protect endangered and threatened species or migratory birds or to control certain wildlife populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also views trapping as a legitimate recreational and economic activity when there are harvestable surpluses of fur-bearing mammals. Outside of Alaska, refuges that permit trapping as a recreational use may require trappers to obtain a refuge special use permit. Signs are posted on refuges where trapping occurs. Contact the refuge manager for specific regulations.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities.
Laws and Regulations
To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please follow these rules and regulations. If you have questions, please contact the Refuge at 361-349-1181. To report a wildlife violation, please call 1-844-FWS-TIPS (844-397-8477).