Seasons of Wildlife


In the mornings and evenings, beavers, coyotes, mule deer and white-tailed deer might be seen. Osprey and shorebirds depart early in the season, while duck migration peaks in early November. Bald eagles arrive at the same time in search of sick or injured ducks that make an easy meal.


Ponds freeze over by late November and remaining waterfowl move to the ice-free Kootenai River. They continue to feed in refuge grain fields. Bald eagles concentrate around the flocks of ducks. Rough-legged hawks hunt for mice on the uplands.  A herd of 100-200 elk often wander down to the grain fields to browse in the evenings and head back up to the safety of the forest at first light in the mornings.


The northward waterfowl migration coincides with the thawing of refuge ponds in late February. Tundra swans, Canada geese, and ducks stop on the refuge to rest and feed while other birds begin their courtship displays. Among the most spectacular displays are snipe "winnowing" and ruffed grouse "drumming." By late spring, waterfowl, bald eagles, osprey, and songbirds are nesting. Occasionally a visitor may be fortunate enough to see a black bear, a moose or an elk.  Three species of hummingbirds can be observed zipping around the native plant gardens.


By early summer, geese and ducks have hatched and may be seen on ponds along with American coots and pied-billed grebes.  Northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, and American kestrels are commonly seen hunting over refuge fields. Osprey hunt for fish from the air while Great-Blue herons wade in shallow water searching for fish and frogs on refuge ponds. American Dippers flit among the rocks in Myrtle Creek.

Featured Species


With hummingbirds darting around the flowers, bald eagles soaring over the wetlands, and the sora rail hiding in the marsh, over 223 species of birds make the refuge their home!  Three species of hummingbirds nest here - Black-chinned, Calliope and Rufous. 


Tip-toeing through the forest may be any number of animals, but be especially on the lookout for moose, elk, bear or white-tail deer!  Both black bear and grizzly bear make the refuge their home.  More than 45 species of mammals make Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge their home where they forage, rest and raise their young.


Both native and non-native fish inhabit the waters surrounding the refuge.  In Myrtle Creek anglers may find cutthroat, rainbow, brook or bull trout.  Otters and waterfowl can be found dining on pumpkinseed, yellow perch or bullhead in the wetlands.  Adjacent to the refuge runs the Kootenai River which is home to the endangered white sturgeon and the recovering burbot.


Bzzzzz is the sound often heard when wandering the trails at the refuge!  Many species of insects can be seen fliting around your ears.  Keep an eye out for the damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies, and bees!  Even those pesky ones, all pollinators serve an important role in the life cycle of many of the plants and as a results, the animals!  Wander through the pollinator gardens to take a closer look at these small, but important workers.