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Species and Habitat Data

The following represents the species and habitat information most often requested when consulting with the Department. Other information may be available during consultation.

Responsible development should avoid and minimize impacts to wildlife and habitat resources to the extent possible.

Note: some geospatial data and information can be accessed or downloaded using these resources:

Threatened and Endangered Species

North Dakota does not have a state endangered or threatened species list. Only those species listed by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 are considered threatened or endangered in North Dakota, however, the state has a vested interested in the management and recovery of threatened and endangered species.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has statutory authority over listed species and the Ecological Services Program reviews project plans and enforces laws and regulations to avoid or minimize harmful effects on listed species and habitats.

Eagle Nests and other Raptor Nests

The Department maintains a spatial database of known Bald and Golden Eagle nests and other raptors in North Dakota. The records are protected by the North Dakota Century Code §20.1-02-29 and only shared for legitimate projects.

To request a query of known nests within the impacted project area, a shapefile (not zipped) of the project area and description of the project will need to be provided to the Department's conservation division. A data sharing agreement is required before data may be provided. Additionally, the recipient of the data will be required to provide results of wildlife surveys conducted for the specified project.

If a Bald or Golden Eagle nest is located within the project area, consult with the USFWS North Dakota Ecological Services Field Office in Bismarck.

Prairie and Woodland Grouse

Three species of prairie grouse are found in North Dakota. Sage grouse and prairie chickens have limited ranges but sharp-tailed grouse may be found statewide. Ruffed grouse, the only woodland grouse species, are primarily found in the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Gorge area.

LEK DISCLAIMER: The North Dakota Game and Fish Department conducts surveys on established survey blocks to monitor population trends. The Department does not survey the entire state and does not possess a database of every known lek in the state. Leks are variable over time (in size and location) and to survey for lek presence/absence would take multiple years. A more thorough protocol would be required to determine presence/absence of a lek for a given land parcel (e.g. 2-3 years with repeated (at least 3x) listening runs per parcel. If the population is in a low cycle, historic leks might not be active, or have few displaying males (and hence be hard to detect). However, even if leks disappear for a few years during low population cycles, the grouse often reappear at the same spot when the population rebounds. Thus, even a thorough search of an area during a low cycle in the population should carry the caveat that leks may be present when the population is higher.

Contact the Department Upland Game Biologists for more information on grouse.

Grassland Nesting Birds

North Dakota lies within the core breeding range for many declining grassland birds, including several declining endemic grassland birds such as Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Baird’s Sparrow.

The USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team office has developed spatial models depicting relative abundance of these species across North Dakota. Numerous conservation planning products, publications and GIS datasets are available for download.


North Dakota produces more ducks than any other state and its waterfowl production has significant importance to many regions of the country. Important breeding waterfowl habitats in the state often overlap important habitats for other prairie/wetland ecosystem-based wildlife species.

The USFWS HAPET office has developed spatial models that prioritize and conservation and management of wetlands and uplands in areas that are accessible by high densities of breeding pairs of ducks. Numerous conservation planning products, publications and GIS datasets are available for download.

High-profile Big Game Species

Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep and Elk are big game species of western North Dakota and hold high public sentiment.

State Wildlife Action Plan Focus Areas

The North Dakota State Wildlife Action Plan is the state’s principal document for conserving rare and declining fish and wildlife species.

The SWAP indicates that the key to ensuring Species of Conservation Priority long-term survival is to maintain diverse habitats. However, Focus Areas outline those areas where the maximum number of SCP may occur. Focus Areas are highly variable in size and often represent an area of native vegetation or a natural community type rare to North Dakota.

Key Native Wildlife and Habitat Areas

Key areas for native wildlife and habitat were identified using the State Wildlife Action Plan Focus Areas, large tracts of unbroken grassland, and high wetland density areas.

There are three categories: low, medium, and high impacts to native wildlife and habitat. None of the areas represent complete avoidance or exclusion areas for development.

The map can be used as an initial scoping tool for minimizing impacts to native wildlife and habitat during development.

Unbroken Grassland/Native Prairie

Many unique, declining, or rare species in North Dakota are dependent on unbroken grassland/native prairie to complete their life cycle. Development activities may damage or fragment these habitats to the extent where these species use may be irreversibly damaged.

It is estimated less than 25% of the state is unbroken grassland, therefore avoiding and minimizing development activities in remaining unbroken grassland is the highest priority.

  • Assessing Grassland at Various Scales - A Desktop Approach to Avoid and Minimize Impacts to Grassland (2021) - The purpose of this document is to describe three scales of grassland assessment (statewide, regional, and local) that can be used to minimize impacts to this important habitat during development projects. An example is included to illustrate how various raster and vector spatial layers may be utilized to refine and on-screen digitize the current extent of grassland types within a select project area.
  • North Dakota Game and Fish Department derived geospatial products: query “grassland” on NDGIS Hub

Native Woodland

North Dakota contains a relatively small amount of native woodland. However, it is important several unique, declining, or rare species.

  • North Dakota Game and Fish Department derived geospatial products: query “woodland” on NDGIS Hub


North Dakota has about 2.4 million acres of wetlands remaining from an estimated 5 million that once existed. The highest wetland densities are in the Missouri Coteau and Drift Prairie collectively known as the Prairie Pothole region. Maintaining high wetland diversity is important for wildlife and small temporary and seasonal wetlands are most vulnerable to negative impacts.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Public Land

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Wildlife Management Areas – More than 220,000 acres of land across the state is managed specifically for wildlife and compatible wildlife-based recreation. Some WMAs are owned by the Department and others are leased from other agencies. Project proponents should contact the local WMA manager early in the planning process to identify potential conflicts with WMAs.

  • Geospatial boundaries: query “WMA” on NDGIS Hub

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Private Land Open To Sportsmen

North Dakota Game and Fish Department PLOTS – The Department’s Private Land Initiative administers the PLOTS program. PLOTS provide financial and technical assistance to private landowners for habitat protection, enhancement and development. Project proponents should contact the local PLI biologist early in the planning process to identify potential conflicts with PLOTS.