About the Bird Sanctuary

Situated on the rolling glacial outwash sand plain that extends from Burnett to Bayfield counties, the property features a large pine barrens with widely scattered clumps of jack pine, northern pin oak (hill’s oak), and occasional red (norway) pine. The plant community is characteristic of the presettlement vegetation that once covered much of northwestern Wisconsin.

Maintained by fire, the barrens are one of the best sharp-tailed grouse habitats in Wisconsin. Shrubs present are american hazelnut, sweet fern, early low blueberry, and prairie willow. Ground layer species include big bluestem, little bluestem, rough blazing star, wood lily, hoary puccoon, new jersey tea, pasque flower, butterfly weed, and wood betony (lousewort).

The Bird Sanctuary, officially called the Douglas County Wildlife Management Area (DCWMA), is a 4,000 acre property that is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and leased from Douglas County (except for 994 acres that are state owned). 240 acres of the property were designated the Solon Springs Sharptail Barrens State Natural Area by the DNR in 1968.

Bird life is dominated by species, which require extensive open landscapes including the rare sharp-tailed grouse, upland sandpiper, northern harrier (marsh hawk), clay-colored sparrow, red-tailed hawk, and vesper sparrow.

Other birds include sora rail, spotted sandpiper, short-eared owl, rough-legged hawk, eastern bluebird, rufous-sided towhee, gray catbird, brown thrasher, vesper sparrow, american woodcock, and ruffed grouse.

In addition to sharp-tailed grouse, principal wildlife includes white-tailed deer, coyote, plains pocket gopher, and american badger. Other mammals include black bear, gray (timber) wolf, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, red squirrel, eastern gray squirrel, and least chipmunk.

Amphibians, turtles, and reptiles include eastern tiger salamander, blue spotted salamander, cope’s gray tree frog, eastern american toad, western painted turtle, eastern hog-nosed snake, smooth green snake (grass snake), and northern prairie skink.

Recreational activities include hiking, bird watching, berry picking, wild flower observation, picnicking, and dog trials by permit.


“To Preserve This Priceless Legacy”

The Friends of the Bird Sanctuary, Inc. (FOTBS) was formed to help protect and preserve the Douglas County Wildlife Management Area (DCWMA). FOTBS is a volunteer-based organization that was created in September 2003.

FOTBS is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization. All dues and donations are tax deductible.

In August 2003 when the DCWMA lease between Douglas County and the Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources was being renegotiated for another 25 years, it became apparent that only a strong voice of stewardship and advocacy would ensure the continued preservation of this unique resource. FOTBS is a chapter of the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks http://www.fwsp.org/

We operate in partnership (under a written Tri-Partnership Agreement) with the Wisconsin DNR and Douglas County. Our group carries on the conservation tradition started by Field Trial associations in the 1920’s.

The unique Pine Barrens ecosystem, that includes the Bird Sanctuary, once covered 2.3 million acres of Wisconsin. Today fewer than 40,000 acres remain, and 4,000 of these remaining acres are in the Bird Sanctuary. These open areas are home to Sharp-tailed Grouse along with a wide variety of wildlife and plants that can only survive in this type of habitat.