Description - Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge lies within the Central Flyway and is part of a complex of several thousand playa lakes found in New Mexico, Texas, and Chihuahua, Mexico.
The refuge lies along the transition zone of the Chihuahuan Desert and Southern Plains, providing habitat for several mammal and reptile species unique to this part of New Mexico.
While originally established to save wetlands vital to the perpetuation of migratory birds, the isolated gypsum springs, seeps, and associated wetlands protected by the refuge have been recognized as providing the last known habitats in the world for several unique species.
- Several special management areas are encompassed by the refuge. These include the 9,621-acre Salt Creek Wilderness, the 10,090-acre Bitter Lake Group National Natural Landmark, the 700-acre Lake St. Francis Research Natural Area, the 300-acre Bitter Lake Research Natural Area, and the 2-acre Inkpot Research Natural Area.
Bitter Lake NWR provides habitat for over 350 species of birds, 57 mammal species, 50 reptile and amphibian species, and 24 fish species. The refuge typically winters over 20,000 snow geese, Ross' geese, and Canada geese, and up to 10,000 lesser sandhill cranes. Marsh bird, water bird, and shorebird populations reach over 3,000 each spring and fall.
Along with more abundant species, the refuge harbors six species which are federally listed as threatened or endangered. These include the Pecos bluntnose shiner, Pecos gambusia, interior least tern, bald eagle, American peregrine falcon, and brown pelican. An additional 15 plant and animal species on the refuge are listed by the state of New Mexico as endangered. These include the Noel's amphipod, Pecos assiminea, Roswell springsnail, Koster's springsnail, Say's pond snail, Mexican tetra, Pecos pupfish, greenthroat darter, river cooter, ribbon snake, neotropic cormorant, Baird's sparrow, Bell's vireo, least shrew, and Pecos puzzle sunflower.
Climate - This southwestern state is well known for its hot, dry climate. Most areas experience cool winter weather, due to the general high elevation of the region. The southern areas of the state normally don't see any snow in winter. The northern areas and higher elevations will accumulate some snow during the winter and many mountain passes are not maintained.