CAMAS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
About half of the Camas National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Idaho consists of lakes, ponds, and marshlands; the remainder is grass sagebrush uplands, meadows, and farm fields. Camas Creek flows through the length of the refuge.
During migration, which peaks in March-April and October, up to 50,000 ducks and 3,000 geese may be present on the refuge. Tundra and trumpeter swans visit in the hundreds during migration.
The refuge has become a popular swan watching destination with hundreds of tundra and trumpeter swans stopping over during migration. Several state record songbird observations have been made in refuge cottonwood groves on the refuge.
Water management is a critical component of Camas Refuge operations. An extensive system of canals, dikes, wells, ponds, and water-control structures is used to manipulate water for the benefit of wildlife, with an emphasis on nesting waterfowl.
Haying and prescribed fire are used to manipulate vegetation in some fields, and small grain crops are grown to provide supplemental feed for geese and cranes and to keep them from damaging private croplands.
Camas Refuge provides vital habitat for a variety of migratory birds. About half of the refuge's 10,578 acres are lakes, ponds, and marshlands. The remainder consists of grass-sagebrush uplands and meadows. Camas Creek flows for 8 miles through the length of the refuge and is the source of water for many lakes and ponds. Several wells on the refuge also provide water for wildlife during the summer. Songbird numbers peak in May-June during spring migration. After feeding and gaining energy, they continue on their way to nest in the surrounding mountains or nesting areas farther north. They peak again in August-September as they pass through on their way south.
Waterfowl numbers peak in March-April and October-November. Trumpeter swans nest on the refuge nearly every year. They are present at all seasons, but along with tundra swans, are most abundant during spring and fall migrations. At times, 50,000 waterfowl may be present. As ducks and geese move north in the spring, some find the refuge an ideal place to build nests and raise young. During June-August, broods of ducklings and goslings can be seen swimming near refuge shorelines. Duck species produced in great numbers are redheads, mallards, gadwalls, shovelers, lesser scaup, and ruddy ducks.
The marshes attract colonies of nesting waterbirds, including the great egret, snowy egret, cattle egret, great blue heron, black-crowned night-heron, and white-faced ibis. In the spring and fall, chances are good you will see sandhill cranes. Grebes, loons, pelicans, and bitterns may also be observed. Shallow water and mudflats are good places to look for shorebirds such as willets, avocets, black-necked stilts, and sandpipers.
Refuge uplands support a rich variety of other migratory birds, including hawks and owls. Long-billed curlews and short-eared owls are common in the sagebrush grasslands. Non-migratory birds present year-round include the ring-necked pheasant and sage grouse.
Bald eagles, recently removed from the list of endangered species, are present throughout the winter, with numbers peaking in early March. Look for them in large cottonwood trees, which they use for nighttime roosting. In 1983, the refuge erected a nesting tower with hopes of reintroducing the endangered peregrine falcon. Six years later, they nested successfully in the tower and have since nested there every year. Today, peregrines may be observed in the spring, summer, and fall.
Smaller mammals that are observed are muskrat, beaver, coyote, cottontail, and porcupine. You may also occasionally see long-tailed weasel, badger, and red fox. Rodents such as meadow vole, ground squirrel, and deer mouse are also seen--often by the various refuge predators which are looking for a meal.
White-tailed deer are the most common large animal. Mule deer and pronghorn antelope are less likely to be seen. Moose are sighted frequently in the marshes and willows along Camas Creek. Elk are secretive and less likely to be seen.