Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in the Panhandle Region of Idaho, approximately twenty miles from the Canadian border. It is five miles west of Bonners Ferry in Boundary County, Idaho. The Refuge is on the Kootenai River floodplain at approximately 1,750 feet elevation. Prior to settlement, the Kootenai River ruled the narrow valley floor between the lofty Selkirk and Purcell mountains. Each spring, melting snow caused the river to flood the valley bottom, refilling ponds and marshes with water. Fish from the river used the ponds as nurseries for their offspring. Waterfowl and other wetland animals thrived in the marshes. Cottonwood forests, brush, and grass uplands provided homes for many kinds of wildlife. During their annual migrations, large numbers of waterfowl stopped to rest and feed in the Kootenai Valley.

The 2,774 acre refuge consists of approximately 800 acres of wetlands (cattail marshes and open water), 700 acres of cropland, 700 acres of grassland interspersed with brush and trees, and 600 acres of forest and brushland on the eastern slope of the Selkirks.

Stands of tall, dense grass on upland areas around wetlands provide nesting cover for ducks, geese, and other ground nesting birds. The grasslands and brushy areas also produce large populations of mice that serve as food for hawks, owls, and coyotes. Brush rows are habitat for songbirds, raccoons, weasels, and bushy-tailed woodrats.

Refuge wildlife habitats include a long, narrow strip of coniferous forest at the base of the Selkirk Mountains. The forest is home to elk, mule and white-tailed deer, moose, and black bear. Forest birds include Cooper?s Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, and Pileated Woodpecker.

Ornithological Summary

Species diversity is one of Kootenai NWR?s greatest assets. A total of 310 vertebrate species have been recorded on the refuge, including over 220 bird species of which 80 species commonly use the refuge for nesting and feeding.

Although over 100 species of birds have been recorded nesting on the refuge, including the threatened Bald Eagle, the Refuge is better known for providing habitat for migrating waterfowl.

The refuge is an important migration stop for migratory waterfowl as it is strategically located along a major migration corridor of the Pacific Flyway.

Peaks of 25,000-40,000 ducks usually occur on the refuge in the fall, with approximately 80-85% being Mallards. Canada Geese also reach their peak numbers in the fall to about 3,500-4,000. Tundra Swans usually peak at 300-500 in the spring, but 200-300 are common in the fall.

Over 220 species of birds documented on the refuge. Over 800 acres of wetland habitat; 35 acres of riparian habitat. Red-necked Grebes (5-15 pairs), other waterbirds (Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern Virginia Rail, Sora, American Coot), shorebirds (Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson?s Snipe), Northern Harriers (2-3 pairs), and Bald Eagles (1-2 pairs) routinely nest on the refuge, as well as numerous waterfowl and Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The refuge is also an important migration stop for migratory waterfowl. Spring and fall peaks of upwards of 40,000 ducks (Mallard ? 80-85%, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon), 4,000 Canada Geese (fall peak), 400 Tundra Swans (spring peak), over 100 shorebirds (fall peak; Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Common Snipe, Long-billed Dowitcher), and up to 15 Bald Eagles (fall peak). American Dippers nesting under bridge of Myrtle

Conservation Issues

Overextraction of groundwater and water rights are a significant issue at this site. USFWS is currently working on wetland projects to manage water levels. As a result, more shorebird habitat may be available in the future. Introduced plants and animals and recreational overuse are also problems at this site.

Habitat

Prior to settlement, the Kootenai River ruled the narrow valley floor between the lofty Selkirk and Purcell mountains. Each spring, melting snow caused the river to flood the valley bottom, refilling ponds and marshes with water. Fish from the river used the ponds as nurseries for their offspring. Waterfowl and other wetland animals thrived in the marshes. Cottonwood forests, brush, and grass uplands provided homes for many kinds of wildlife. During their annual migrations, large numbers of waterfowl stopped to rest and feed in the Kootenai Valley.

Stands of tall, dense grass on upland areas around wetlands provide nesting cover for ducks, geese, and other ground nesting birds. The grasslands and brushy areas also produce large populations of mice that serve as food for hawks, owls, and coyotes. Brush rows are habitat for songbirds, raccoons, weasels, and bushy-tailed woodrats.

Refuge wildlife habitats include a long, narrow strip of coniferous forest at the base of the Selkirk Mountains. The forest is home to elk, mule and white-tailed deer, moose, and black bear. Forest birds include Cooper?s Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, and Pileated Woodpecker.

There is over 800 acres of wetland habitat along with 35 acres of riparian habitat.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.