McLean CountyNatureWildlife

The Wildlife Diversity Of McLean County North Dakota

Sprawling over 760 acres of National Wildlife Refuge area in North Dakota, McLean County with Audubon NWR and the Wetland Management District (WMD) is undoubtedly one of most diversified region for flourishing flora and fauna.  The National Wildlife Refuge Complex of Audubon manages the Wetland Management District, McLean National Wildlife Refuges, Lake Nettie and part of Audubon. The purpose of establishing the refuge were –

  • Providing habitat to endangered and near threatened species
  • Providing migration and nesting habitat for waterfowls and non-game migratory birds and managing them
  • Protecting cultural resources and enhancing ecological communities
  • Offering opportunities for wildlife-related recreation. Learn more about other fun activities to do here.
    Birds landing in marsh
    (Photo by

Mitigating the inundated water habitat near bottomlands of Missouri River after Garrison Dam flooding is also a concern.

Within the Refuge, there are three sections in McLean County, they are –

  • McLean NWR which was established with 760 acres in 1939
  • Audubon NWR which was established with 14,735 acres in 1956
  • Lake Nettie NWR which was established with 3055 acres in 1935

In central North Dakota, the McLean NWR sprawls over the western fringe of the county (within Fort Berthold Indian Reservation) with limited-interest easement of 480 acres and fee title of 344 acres, the NWR was renamed from Lake Susie Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. Lake Susie is actually the wetland system formed during 1930 and now it serves as a nesting island for waterfowls, songbirds and shorebirds. Around 246 bird species, five reptiles, four amphibians and 34 mammals call this refuge their home. Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers can find the following as common fauna –

In green they abode.
  • Fall and Spring migration of Mallards, Canada Geese and White-fronted Geese for staging
  • Ducks like Mallard, Lesser Scaup, Gadwall, Redhead, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and Blue-winged Teal flock in the nesting island
  • Although not so common, but Wilson’s Phalarope and Marbled Godwit nests here
  • Ring-necked Pheasant, Savannah Sparrows, various ducks, Bobolinks, Western Meadowlarks and Upland Sandpipers are found on the grasslands
  • In the dense forestry surrounding wetlands, Whitetail Deer is common

McLean County is also home to the Audubon Wetland Management District which was established in 1962 with Ward, Sheridan and McLean counties, covering 31433 acres of Waterfowl Production Area, wetland and grassland easements and six limited interest wildlife refuges.

The purpose of establishing this district was to provide oversight for the fish and wildlife conservation, wetland preservation, providing nesting and staging habitat for the migratory birds (especially the threatened Piping Plover), waterfowls and wildlife.

Wildlife observation, environmental education, photography, interpretation, limited hunting and fishing are some of the common activities visitors can enjoy. There are observation blinds, 1-mile Prairie Nature Trail, 8.5-mile auto route on South Shore and a Visitor Center for the convenience of the visitors. With a number of resident and migrating birds, native animals including reptiles and amphibians, this is truly a wildlife lover’s paradise. Explore at your own pace and convenience, while respecting the wildlife and their habitats.

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