Coral Bean Plant Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge: A Safe Haven for the Endangered Whooping Crane and Other Texas Wildlife

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is located in Austwell, Texas and encompasses more than a hundred thousand acres. This sanctuary is a safe haven for innumerable species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and other animals. The national wildlife refuge is a crucial component to the American wildlife conservation movement and the survival of the endangered whooping crane.

Visitors from around the world come to this nature reserve to enjoy hiking trails, wildlife photography, and observing some of the most diverse wildlife found in Texas. Sightings of raccoons, greater roadrunners, wild turkeys, and white-tailed deer are common. Bird enthusiasts visit the refuge from mid October through mid April to observe whooping cranes, after they have completed their migration south for the winter.

Saving the Whooping Crane

As a result of habitat loss and unregulated hunting, less than twenty whooping cranes remained in the wild in the early 1940’s. All remaining birds belonged to the flock that migrated from Buffalo National Park in Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. However, over the course of several decades, conservationists worked with government agencies to help bring North America’s tallest bird back from the brink of extinction.

Whooping Cranes Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Aransas National Wildlife Refuge In Austwell, TX.
A pair of whooping cranes searching for small crustaceans at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, the whooping crane population now surpasses several hundred. There are currently two migratory populations and one non-migratory population of whooping cranes found in the United States. The largest and only natural population is the one that winters in this Texas wildlife sanctuary. Every year, from October through April, whooping cranes spend the winter at the refuge.

Observe Reptiles Found in This Unique Ecosystem

In addition to whooping cranes, numerous species of reptiles can be found here. One of the largest, and most prominent species, is the American alligator. American alligators are the largest reptiles found in the United States and can reach lengths of up to fifteen feet. These massive reptiles can be observed throughout the park, specifically near bodies of water.

Two American Alligators Resting On The Bank Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Austwell, TX.
Two American alligators resting on the bank in Austwell, Texas.

Also, this nature reserve houses numerous types of lizards. Sightings of eastern fence lizards, green anoles, and six-lined racerunners are common. During the warmer months, which is nearly year-round in Texas, lizards are often seen near trails and pathways.

Six-Lined Racerunner Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Six-lined racerunner resting on pathway in Refugio County, Texas.

Even though sightings are less common, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has documented roughly thirty-five species of snakes. However, only five of those thirty-five species are venomous. These venomous snakes include the Texas coral snake, broad-banded copperhead, western cottonmouth, western diamondback rattlesnake, and western massasauga. Other non-venomous snakes found here include the Texas rat snake, prairie king snake, western coachwhip, and bull snake.

Texas Rat Snake Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Texas rat snake crossing the road at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

See Both Diurnal and Nocturnal Mammals

Finally, this wildlife sanctuary is home to nearly fifty mammal species. Visitors have the chance to observe both diurnal and nocturnal species. Bobcats, collared peccaries, feral pigs, raccoons, white-tailed deer, and even rare sightings of ringtail have been documented.

White-Tailed Deer Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Refugio County, Texas.
White-tailed deer eating vegetation in Austwell, TX.

Although generally considered nocturnal, the raccoons at the refuge have adapted to a more diurnal lifestyle. Raccoons often forage for crayfish and other small animals that live near bodies of water.

Raccoon Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Austwell, TX.
Raccoon searching for small prey near the water in Refugio County, Texas.

Visit Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

In summary, people visit Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for various reasons. However, one of the main attractions is the refuge’s abundance of wildlife. Whether your an avid birdwatcher, a wildlife photographer, or simply someone who loves the great outdoors, it’s worth a visit!

The refuge is open every day from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. In order to enter the park, all visitors must pay $5 per vehicle. Check out the resources below for more information.

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