Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

The Wichita Refuge was established to protect wildlife species that were in grave danger of extinction, and to restore species that had been eliminated from the area. At the time, only deer were present, flourishing under protection.  Bison were reintroduced, along with elk and wild turkey. More recent reintroductions include the prairie dog, the river otter, and burrowing owls.

  • Elk


    Elk had been exterminated from the Wichita Mountains by 1875. Since their reintroduction, the herd has thrived—today numbering approximately 800 animals.

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  • Bison


    The largest North American land mammal in existence, American bison were a key species of the Great Plains—their grazing habits helped establish the distribution of grasslands in the Plains. The current bison herd is maintained at approximately 650 animals.

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  • Deer

    More Elk

    The white-tailed deer of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge are from original native stock that survived the early settlement years of exploitation and overhunting. In 1901, when the area became protected, the remnant deer population rapidly expanded. In 1961, the peak population hit 2,987. Today, the minimum objective population level is 450.

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