Swan River National Wildlife Refuge

Featured Species


The Swan River National Wildlife Refuge provides nesting habitat for 23 species of waterfowl, with the most common species being mallard, cinnamon teal, blue-winged teal, and common goldeneye. Other common species include: wood duck, ring-necked duck, bufflehead, common merganser, and lesser scaup.


Shorebirds, gulls, and terns that can be observed on the Refuge include common snipe, black terns, Wilson's phalaropes, American avocets, killdeer, and several species of sandpipers.

Wading Birds and Grebes

Annual flooding of the Refuge in the late spring and early summer provides excellent habitat for marsh and water birds. Careful observers may spot sandhill cranes, American bitterns, soras, great blue herons, or pied-billed, red-necked, or horned grebes.


Coniferous and deciduous forests on the Refuge offer excellent resting and loafing sites for many raptor species.  Northern harriers, Swainson's hawks, red-tailed hawks, and great horned owls are commonly observed. Bald eagles have successfully nested on the Refuge for many years.  The eagles arrive in February to begin nesting and usually fledge one or two eaglets in mid-May. Transient eagles also use the Refuge; up to eight eagles have been spotted at one time.

Other Mammals

The Refuge provides excellent seasonal and year-round habitat for white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. Other resident and transient wildlife include beaver, muskrat, raccoon, and black bear.

Grizzly Bears

The Swan and Mission Mountain Ranges provide important habitat for the grizzly bear. The Refuge serves as a key corridor between these two systems. Grizzly bears are occasionally observed on the Refuge in the spring and summer.

Muskrat - Montana Muskrat Company

A Chicago businessman named James Hall bought the land at the mouth of the Swan River from Harry Johnson in 1925. His plan was to provide prime muskrat pelts to make boas, buffs, coats, and other fashion accessories and to use the muskrat to imitate other more exotic furs. It was developed as a stock corporation. A lot of money was invested and ambitious facilities were built to trap and process the muskrats. It would employ 20-30 people and produce 90,000 pelts annually. At least that was the plan until the stock market crash of 1929. The bottom fell out of the fur market and the Montana Muskrat Company Colony “A” Ranch shut down by 1933.