Merced National Wildlife Refuge Updated:04/2023

The Merced National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 10,258 acres of wetlands, native grasslands, vernal pools, and riparian woodlands. It was established in 1951 under the Lea Act and Migratory Bird Conservation Act to attract wintering waterfowl from neighboring farmland where their foraging activities were causing crop damage. Changes to local agricultural practices and refuge management activities over the last several decades have reduced issues of wildlife causing crop damage on neighboring private lands. The refuge was also established to serve as inviolate sanctuary for migratory waterfowl.

The refuge hosts the largest wintering populations of lesser sandhill cranes and Ross’ geese along the Pacific Flyway. Each autumn as many as 20,000 cranes and 60,000 arctic-nesting geese terminate their annual migrations from Alaska and Canada to make the refuge home. Here they mingle with thousands of other visiting waterfowl, waterbirds, and shorebirds – making the refuge a true winter phenomenon.

The refuge also provides important breeding habitat for Swainson’s hawks, tri-colored blackbirds, marsh wrens, mallard, gadwall, cinnamon teal, and burrowing owls. Tri-colored blackbirds, a colonial-nesting songbird, breed in colonies of more than 25,000 pairs in robust herbaceous vegetation on the refuge. Coyotes, ground squirrels, desert cottontail rabbits, beaver, and long-tailed weasels are abundant mammal species and are present year-round.

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Contact Merced National Wildlife Refuge

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
7430 W. Sandy Mush Road
Merced, CA  95341
Phone: (209) 826-3508
Toll Free: (800) 344-9453

Service Area

Services provided in:
  • Merced County, California