Endangered Woodpecker Gets a Boost in Wilderness Area’s Centennial Year

November 7, 2018


Ten endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers were recently relocated to the Wildlife Department's McCurtain County Wilderness Area and nearby Ouachita National Forest. (John Maxwell/USFWS)

One of Oklahoma’s first conservation areas recently received a boost to its endangered red-cockaded woodpecker population thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Ten juvenile woodpeckers – five males and five females – were relocated to southeastern Oklahoma from a donor population on the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. Eight birds were released at the Wildlife Department’s McCurtain County Wilderness Area and two were released on the nearby Ouachita National Forest.  

“Red-cockaded woodpeckers are really limited in our state. There are less than 100 in Oklahoma, and they’re only found on the McCurtain County Wilderness Area and the adjoining Ouachita National Forest. Hopefully these 10 birds from Louisiana will stay in Oklahoma and help our population grow – in number and genetic health,” said Clay Barnes, biologist for the Wildlife Department.  

Red-cockaded woodpeckers roost and nest in mature pine forests in the southeastern United States, and are unique among Oklahoma birds in that the breeding pair gets help during the nesting season from last year’s offspring.  

Follow Wildlife Department biologists as they track the endangered woodpeckers and work to restore the forested habitat on which the birds rely in an upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma, which airs Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. on OETA, or in the November/December issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.


Created in 1918, the McCurtain County Wilderness Area is the Wildlife Department’s oldest conservation area and home to Oklahoma’s last remaining red-cockaded woodpeckers. Users may experience the open forests and local wildlife with a visit to the McCurtain County Wilderness Area’s nature trail, on the area’s western unit. Hiking and backpacking permits for the area east of Broken Bow Lake may be secured by contacting the area’s biologist at least two weeks before planned arrival. All visitors are required to possess a conservation passport or valid Oklahoma hunting or fishing license to enter the management area.