The Wolf River watershed provides a healthy home for a wide variety of flora and fauna, especially in its rural upper reaches. More than 200 species of birds including Bald Eagles have been verified in recent surveys, and beavers, otters, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, and other mammals are common.
Numerous amphibian and reptile species are found in the Wolf River watershed, especially in its floodplain wetlands. The river itself hosts 67 species of fish including rare species such as the naked sand darter and piebald madtom, and twenty-five species of native freshwater mussels. Rare plants such as copper iris and southern twayblade orchid grow in the Wolf’s bottomlands, and more than 430 plant species have been identified in the Ghost River State Natural Area alone.
The Wolf River flows across a bed of soft alluvial soil, its channel meandering back and forth across a wide floodplain. The floodplain forests along the Wolf River are composed of plant species that have adapted to seasonal flooding that usually occurs in winter and spring. There are two main types of floodplain forests in the Wolf watershed: cypress-tupelo and bottomland hardwood. True wetland tree species such as bald cypress and water tupelo are able to live in wet conditions for most of their lives. Hardwood trees such as swamp chestnut oak and water oak are very tolerant of flooding but cannot survive a constant aquatic habitat. Thus, bottomland hardwood ecosystems exist at a slightly higher and drier elevation than cypress-tupelo swamps and are dominated by various species of oak and hickory trees. The Wolf River Watershed also includes upland forests with unusual species such as the Sand Post Oak and Prickly Pear, managed grasslands where you can sometimes hear the calls of the Eastern Bobwhite, and altered urban and agricultural habitats.
All of the plant and animal species in the Wolf River watershed have one thing in common: they depend on natural habitat to survive. These species are uniquely adapted to fill a particular niche in the Wolf River watershed, whether that niche is in a leafy treetop or a muddy riverbed, and each species is important to help maintain the balance of the larger ecosystem. When an ecosystem is altered by human activities, such as forest clearing and wetland drainage, the species within that ecosystem are placed at risk. By protecting land, the Wolf River Conservancy protects not only the aquifer recharge and water quality services of the Wolf River watershed, but its rich biodiversity and complex ecology as well.