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National Wildlife Refuge

1101 Casey Road
Basom, NY   14013 - 9730
E-mail: iroquois@fws.gov
Phone Number: 585-948-5445
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Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge lies midway between Buffalo and Rochester, NY, within the Atlantic Flyway. The relatively flat terrain encompasses 10,818 acres of habitat. Freshwater marshes and hardwood swamps border or are fed by Oak Orchard Creek which meanders east to west before leaving the refuge to empty into Lake Ontario 20 miles away. Forests, meadows and fields slope up gently from the wetland's edge.

Getting There . . .
From the New York State Thruway (I-90) take exit 48-A (Pembroke/Medina). Go north on Route 77 for approximately 8 miles. At the 4-way stop light in Alabama Center continue straight for one more mile to Casey Road. Turn left on Casey Rd. The Headquarters Building is one mile west.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The refuge serves primarily as a nesting, feeding, resting and staging areas for migratory waterfowl. The varied habitats support approximately 266 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, plus reptiles, fish, amphibians and insects. Bald eagles have maintained an active nest on the refuge since 1986. Management goals also address the needs of species of special concern including black tern, black ducks, osprey, American woodcock, and peregrine falcons which use the refuge during some time of the year.

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The refuge is located within the historic Oak Orchard Swamp, locally known as "the Alabama Swamp." The Seneca Indians, one of the six tribes of the Iroquois Nation and the aboriginal inhabitants of this area, were the first to clear garden plots within the oak forests near their villages. To the European settlers in the late 1700's the remaining clusters of oak trees resembled orchards. Thus the name, "Oak Orchard Swamp". Settlers continued to drain, clear and cultivated more of the swamp for the next century until it became too expensive. By the 1930's, residents noticed a sharp decline in the once plentiful wildlife and made plans to protect the remnant natural swamps. In 1958 Oak Orchard National Wildlife Refuge was established. The refuge was renamed Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in 1964 to avoid confusion with the neighboring Oak Orchard State Wildlife Management Area.

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Management Activities
Before development, the refuge area contained over 5,000 acres that were normally inundated in the spring, but mostly dry by the fall. The development of thirteen impoundments (shallow marshes surrounded or "impounded" by low earthen dikes) now allows some degree of control to provide over 4,000 acres of wetlands. Periodic draw downs of some of the major impoundments rejuvenates the soil and plant growth to create prime habitat conditions for breeding and migrating waterfowl. Manipulating water levels also helps control undesirable or exotic plants in the impoundments, controls flooding on neighboring lands, maintains an adequate flow in Oak Orchard Creek, and maintains suitable habitat for other wildlife.

Grassland management employs a combination of mowing, spraying and fire to control shrubs and other undesirable vegetation as well as to maintain nesting habitat and to provide browse for geese as well as nesting areas for grassland nesting birds including Eastern Meadowlark, Short eared Owl and Upland Sandpiper. Haying, conducted through a cooperative farming program, provides additional browse for geese.

Most of the forests on Iroquois are second growth. Some areas are periodically cleared to provide brushland or early successional forest while others are allowed to grow into climax and late second-growth forest.

Purple loosestrife and phragmites are isolated but recurring invasive plants on the refuge. In general they have been controlled by spraying and hand-pulling. In 1995, the refuge began overseeing a biological control project for loosestrife in partnership with the adjacent Department of Environmental Conservation lands. The project included the rearing and distribution of Galerucella and Hylobius insects at controlled sites. Where the insects were released, loosestrife is dying and natural marsh plants are returning.

Iroquois NWR has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

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