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. 

To maintain this living piece of history, refuge staff strives to mimic the historic seasons of the Rio Grande. Pumps draw waters from the river to blanket the refuge’s resacas (channels of the Rio Grande). Conversely, as happened historically, the resacas are drawn down and allowed to go dry. During this time, biologists treat invasive and exotic plants so that when the waters return, resacas will be rich with native plants beneficial to wildlife.  

During the summer months, resacas are managed to provide wetland habitat for species such as the clay-colored thrush, groove-billed ani, tropical parula, great kiskadee and Altamira oriole. In the winter, water levels in the resacas are maintained to provide habitat for least and pied-billed grebes, various wading birds, mottled ducks, sandpipers, rails and other winter waterfowl. 

While nature did it best, the refuge’s seasonal management efforts assure continued life for the flood forest, nesting and feeding habitat for birds, watering holes for animals, and homes for a fascinating medley of insects, reptiles and amphibians. 

Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers patrol the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge to ensure the safety of the public and the protection of natural resources. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with U.S. Border Patrol agents who regularly patrol the refuge and assist as needed.  

To report a violation on refuge lands during the daytime (6:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.), please call: 956-784-7520.

Laws and Regulations

  • Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is here for your enjoyment of wildlife-dependent activities and for the benefit of wildlife, so please do not disturb or collect animals or plants. 
  • The 7-mile tour loop is currently used for the nature tram and bicycling. 
  • Bicycles are only allowed on the 7-mile tour loop and on Bobcat Road/trail. 
  • No pets allowed on the refuge. 
  • No large, organized groups or events allowed.  
  • Camping, hunting, and fishing are not permitted.