The Largest National Wildlife Refuge Areas In The United States

Alaska tundra wolf in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Alaska tundra wolf in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The US government has set aside several areas as National Wildlife Refuge to conserve the wildlife within the regions. According to statistics from the US government, there were approximately 67 regions in the United States classified as National Wildlife Refuge. One of the main departments of the US government is the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and part of its mandate is to manage the National Wildlife Refuge systems. A significant number of these protected areas are situated in Alaska.

Largest National Wildlife Refuges

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The most extensive wildlife refuge system in the US is situated in the state of Alaska and is known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The sanctuary covers an area of roughly 30,135 square miles that is located in the northern section of Alaska. Initially, in 1960 the government of the US designated the region as a federally protected area after several prominent Americans such as George Collins and Lowell Sumner called for the area to be protected.

Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

The second largest wildlife refuge in the US is also situated in Alaska and is referred to as the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge system covers an area of roughly 30,000 square miles. The refuge traces its history back to the early 20th century, particularly 1909 when President Theodore Roosevelt established the refuge. President Carter increased the coverage of the refuge after he assented to the bill of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The refuge is unique because apart from conserving wildlife, it also provides a home to a significant number of people.

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

The state of Alaska is also home to the third largest wildlife refuge in the US, the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge spans an area of roughly 13,500 square miles. Several rivers flow through the refuge with the most prominent ones being the Chandalar River and the Yukon River. The region was declared a refuge due to its significance as a breeding spot for several species of waterfowl. The refuge was established during the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

Togiak National Wildlife Refuge

The fourth largest refuge in the US is also situated in the state of Alaska and is known as the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The Togiak Refuge spans an area of roughly 6,410 miles. The refuge is situated on the southwestern edge of Alaska. The Togiak Refuge is popular because it is home to close to 50 species of mammals. Seventeen of the mammal species within the refuge are marine mammals. Some of the terrestrial mammals found in the refuge include Arctic foxes, caribou, and red foxes while the marine mammals in the refuge include whales and sea lions.

Innoko National Wildlife Refuge

The fifth largest refuge in the US is the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge which is situated in the western edge of Alaska where it spans an area of 6,016 square miles. The refuge was established in 1980 during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. The Innoko Refuge is of great ecological importance as some birds nest within its boundaries such as the ospreys and bald eagles.

The Importance of Wildlife Refuges

Wildlife refuges are of great ecological significance as they safeguard the habitats of numerous species of wildlife. They also provide scientists an opportunity to study the wildlife in their natural habitat.

The Largest National Wildlife Refuge Areas In The United States

RankNameState(s)Area: km²
1Arctic National Wildlife RefugeAlaska78,049.62
2Yukon Delta National Wildlife RefugeAlaska77,547.55
3Yukon Flats National Wildlife RefugeAlaska34,942.63
4Togiak National Wildlife RefugeAlaska16,602.38
5Innoko National Wildlife RefugeAlaska15,582.34
6Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife RefugeAlaska14,420.93
7Koyukuk National Wildlife RefugeAlaska14,366.99
8Alaska Maritime National Wildlife RefugeAlaska13,831.17
9Selawik National Wildlife RefugeAlaska8,701.40
10Kodiak National Wildlife RefugeAlaska8,054.94
11Kenai National Wildlife RefugeAlaska7,739.31
12Desert National Wildlife RefugeNevada6,536.94
13Nowitna National Wildlife RefugeAlaska6,313.10
14Kanuti National Wildlife RefugeAlaska5,787.65
15Becharof National Wildlife RefugeAlaska4,856.47
16Charles M. Russell National Wildlife RefugeMontana3,704.06
17Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife RefugeArizona3,480.46
18Tetlin National Wildlife RefugeAlaska2,833.04
19Kofa National Wildlife RefugeArizona2,697.48
20Sheldon National Wildlife RefugeNevada / Oregon2,320.89
21Okefenokee National Wildlife RefugeGeorgia / Florida1,626.47
22Izembek National Wildlife RefugeAlaska1,258.88
23Hart Mountain National Antelope RefugeOregon1,092.67
24Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife RefugeHawaii1,029.59
25Sevilleta National Wildlife RefugeNew Mexico929.46
26Key West National Wildlife RefugeFlorida842.99
27Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish RefugeWisconsin / Iowa / Minnesota / Illinois842.33
28Malheur National Wildlife RefugeOregon757.28
29Hanford Reach National MonumentWashington702.05
30White River National Wildlife RefugeArkansas643.35
31Alligator River National Wildlife RefugeNorth Carolina619.24
32Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife RefugeFlorida582.56
33Merritt Island National Wildlife RefugeFlorida563.28
34Sabine National Wildlife RefugeLouisiana509.05
35Great White Heron National Wildlife RefugeFlorida476.40
36Buenos Aires National Wildlife RefugeArizona473.92
37Aransas National Wildlife RefugeTexas464.00
38Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife RefugeVirginia / North Carolina450.02
39Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife RefugeNorth Carolina445.59
40Seney National Wildlife RefugeMichigan385.44
41Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife RefugeTexas366.00
42Grasslands Wildlife Management AreaCalifornia360.22
43Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife RefugeTexas357.70
44Stillwater National Wildlife RefugeNevada353.17
45National Key Deer RefugeFlorida343.27
46Baca National Wildlife RefugeColorado318.47
47Bear River Migratory Bird RefugeUtah299.45
48Tensas River National Wildlife RefugeLouisiana296.11
49Valentine National Wildlife RefugeNebraska295.82
50Saint Marks National Wildlife RefugeFlorida280.03
51Cape Romain National Wildlife RefugeSouth Carolina268.25
52Cache River National Wildlife RefugeArkansas267.76
53Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife RefugeMontana266.32
54Felsenthal National Wildlife RefugeArkansas262.65
55Agassiz National Wildlife RefugeMinnesota248.89
56J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife RefugeNorth Dakota240.29
57Wichita Mountains Wildlife RefugeOklahoma238.84
58McFaddin National Wildlife RefugeTexas238.20
59San Andres National Wildlife RefugeNew Mexico231.54
60Bosque del Apache National Wildlife RefugeNew Mexico231.44
61UL Bend National Wildlife RefugeMontana226.82
62Dakota Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife Management AreaSouth Dakota / North Dakota226.02
63Tennessee National Wildlife RefugeTennessee207.84
64Lower Suwannee National Wildlife RefugeFlorida206.51
65Big Oaks National Wildlife RefugeIndiana206.39
66Lower Klamath National Wildlife RefugeCalifornia / Oregon206.04
67Mattamuskeet National Wildlife RefugeNorth Carolina203.05

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