Just west of Muleshoe in the far northwestern reaches of the Panhandle, wintering sandhill cranes assemble by the hundreds around shallow sink-type lakes, only a foot or so deep at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge. The Muleshoe population is considered one of the largest concentrations of sandhill cranes in North America and the refuge is the oldest in Texas. Meanwhile, endangered whooping cranes make their winter home off the shores of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge north of Rockport, dining on the blue crabs that inhabit the shallows. Southward, the Laguna Atacosa National Wildlife Refuge harbors the last remaining population of ocelot in the United States.
Wetlands along the coast at Big Boggy, San Bernard, Brazoria, Anahuac, McFaddin, and Texas Point, are all federally-protected wildlife sanctuaries where native species have a chance to enjoy protection among a fast-growing urban environment. The National Wildlife Refuge System represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. Although other states encompass much more of the land protected within the system, Texas hosts some of the most unique and varied habitats, helping our native and migratory populations to survive and thrive.