At Home In the Wild
For those who pursue it, Arkansas wildlife watching can be about capturing an image, or keeping a list of a species seen. For some, it means learning more about the life history of a particular animal. For others, it leads to a greater understanding of and appreciation for the relationship between a species and its habitat.
Arkansas encompasses wetlands, slow-moving streams, and oxbow lakes on the nation's largest alluvial plain; the lower valley of America's fourth longest river; ridges with a rare east-west orientation in a range of fold-and-fault mountains known as the Ouachitas; limestone caves and clear, swift waters in a region of eroding plateaus called the Ozarks; and the pine-dominated woodlands of a rolling, coastal plain once covered by the Gulf of Mexico.
While some species of Arkansas wildlife - for example the white-tailed deer, - are spread across the state because they can survive in any of those areas, others are closely tied to a particular habitat. Many of the state's 16 bat species, two species of endangered cave crayfish, and the endangered Ozark cavefish rely on Ozark caves. For its survival, the threatened leopard darter, a small fish, requires clean, flowing water such as that found in the upper Cossatot River in the Ouachitas. There is a terrestrial snail known so far to exist only on Mount Magazine, Arkansas's highest peak.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of endangered and threatened species in Arkansas contains 25 animals, most of which are highly specific in their habitat requirements and most have benefited from habitat preservation. The presence of two of the state's more sought-after mammals - the elk and the American black bear - is due to restocking efforts by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, as well as habitat preservation work.
In addition to Arkansas's birds, more than 70 kinds of mammals, close to 115 reptiles and amphibians and more than 155 butterflies are among the species awaiting Arkansas wildlife watchers.
National wildlife refuges, national forests, wildlife management areas, nature centers, natural areas, state parks and National Park Service lands scattered within Arkansas's borders provide an abundance of public land on which residents and visitors can observe and photograph wildlife in Arkansas. Visit the places section of this website for more information.
The Arkansas Watchable Wildlife Guide, a publication of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, provides detailed information, directions, information on resident species to 89 of the best locations for viewing wildlife in Arkansas. It is available by mail for $7 at Publication Sales, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock AR 72205. It can be purchased in person for $5 at that address or at any of the commission's regional offices.
The books Arkansas Mammals: Their Natural History, Classification, and Distribution by John A. Sealander and Gary A. Heidt and The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas by Stanley E. Trauth, Henry W. Robison and Michael V. Plummer contain many color photographs of Arkansas wildlife and are available in local bookstores and online from the University of Arkansas Press.
Wildlife-related events are offered throughout the year by Arkansas State Parks, private businesses, towns, and other entities.