Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, managed by both the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service, is the only international wildlife refuge in North America. It was established in 2001 in an effort to create sustainable ecosystems along the Detroit River and western Lake Erie and to provide wildlife with safe, healthy habitats to live in. The refuge spans 48 miles of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie shorelines, and includes islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands totaling over 6,000 acres.

Before the refuge was created, the areas around the Detroit River and western Lake Erie were not habitable for animals and wildlife. Urbanization and industrialization in these areas, particularly the expansion of the automobile and steel industries, led to water pollution, oil slicks, and low oxygen levels in the water. Fish were unable to survive in the waters and migrating birds were killed by the water, which was contaminated with oil.

Since the refuge’s establishment, both the river itself and its shorelines have been cleaned and restored. Many species of birds, fish, and mammals have begun to inhabit the area gain, such as canvasback ducks, lake sturgeon, and eastern fox snakes.

Not only does the wildlife benefit from the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, but so do the people around it. The refuge is open to the public, allowing visitors to hunt, fish, hike, take photographs, go boating, and visit the wildlife observation.

The Detroit River International Refuge is an ongoing project; additional land is continuously acquisitioned in order to continue expanding the project and ensure that more habitats and waterfront are restored.