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Amphibian and Reptile Checklists of the United States

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and the
Columbia River Estuary

Ilwaco, Washington


Willapa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established in 1937 to protect migrating and wintering populations of black brant, other waterfowl, shorebirds, and their respective habitats. Refuge units now total 11,000 acres with an incredible diversity of habitat types represented. Leadbetter Point, with its broad expanse of natural salt marshes and subtle dunes combined with scattered coniferous forest stands and associated shoreline habitats is a regional attraction for birdwatchers.

By contrast, the forested uplands, winding sloughs, and associated shoreline of Long Island attracts a great variety of forest, marsh, and waterbirds. The Cedar Grove, a 274-acre remnant of the once vast coastal forest supports a lively mix of woodpeckers, swifts, and songbirds.

The freshwater marshes and pastures of the Lewis and Riekkola Units, located along the southern shore of Willapa Bay, attract perhaps the greatest variety of waterfowl on the refuge. The Riekkola pastures support large numbers of Canada geese in winter and serve as a local hotspot for songbirds in the spring.

Other birding hotspots around Willapa Bay and the Long Beach Peninsula include: the marshes and tidal flats at Bay Center and Tokeland; the Raymond Airport; Loomis Lake; and the rocky shoreline of Fort Canby State Park.

The Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1972 to preserve the vital fish and wildlife habitat of the Columbia River estuary. Riverine islands there range from tidal sand flats and marshes to forested swamps and upland pasture. This combination supports large numbers of waterfowl, gulls, terns, wading birds, shorebirds, and a surprising variety of raptors and songbirds. The Lewis and Clark islands are only accessible by boat.

The checklist area includes: Willapa Bay and adjacent habitats west of Highway 101 and south of Highway 105, plus the Long Beach Peninsula; the Columbia River from Puget Island to the Pacific Ocean, and the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian white-tailed deer.

Pasturelands intermixed with small woodlots and slough systems at the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge, provide critical habitat for approximately 230 of the endangered Columbian white-tailed deer. The deer and a population of Roosevelt elk are easily observed from the Steamboat Slough Road. Bald eagles are commonly seen in trees along the shoreline and the pastures support large numbers of Canada geese in winter. Great blue herons, cormorants, grebes, and loons frequent the many sloughs; and a variety of songbirds occur along the edges of woodlots.

Over 250 birds, 53 mammals, and 19 herptiles have been recorded within the checklist area. The best wildlife observation seasons are April through June and August through November. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times of day for observing all wildlife. Waterfowl and shorebirds are best observed two to three hours before high tide.

Major subdivisions within the area of coverage

W - Willapa NWR. W includes Willapa Bay, the Long Beach Peninsula and the Columbia River, west of the Astoria-Megler Bridge
J - Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian white-tailed deer
L - Lewis and Clark NWR. For continuity, L includes the Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Puget Island
A - All of the above

SALAMANDERS REFUGE(S) ___ Rough-skinned Newt A ___ Northwestern Salamander A ___ Pacific Giant Salamander W ___ Olympic Salamander W ___ Ensatina W ___ Dunn's Salamander W ___ Van Dyke's Salamander W ___ Western Red-backed Salamander W,J
FROGS REFUGE(S) ___ Red-legged Frog A ___ Bull Frog A ___ Western Toad J ___ Pacific Treefrog A
TURTLES REFUGE(S) ___ Loggerhead Sea Turtle W ___ Green Sea Turtle W ___ Leatherback Sea Turtle W
SNAKES REFUGE(S) ___ Common Gartersnake A ___ Northwestern Gartersnake A

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The following individuals contributed detailed notes, valuable observations and their time to the enhancement of this checklist.

Alan Richards, Naselle, Washington
Richard L. Wilson, Bay Center, Washington
Denise and James Caldwell, Cathlamet, Washington

Nussbaum, R.A.; Brodie, E.D.; Storm, R.M. 1983. Amphibians and Reptiles
     of Pacific Northwest. University Press of Idaho, Moscow.

For more information, contact:
                     Refuge Manager
                     Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
                     HC 01, Box 910
                     Ilwaco, Washington 98624-9707
                     Telephone: 360/484-3482

Return to Bird Checklist of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

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