Around 30 species of tree are native to Wisconsin (2). Generally, Wisconsin’s Northwoods are dominated by species such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), red maple (Acer rubrum), basswood (Tilia americana), white ash (Fraxinus americana), red oak (Quercus rubra), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) (2). The majestic white pine (Pinus strobus) was once widespread throughout northern parts of the state, but now only a few scattered pockets of this grand species remain (7).
Hundreds of species of mosses, lichens, liverworts, ferns, grasses and sedges, orchids, wildflowers and shrubs are also found in the Northwoods (4) (8).
Wisconsin is home to around 72 mammals (5). The Northwoods provide extensive habitat for a wide variety of these species, ranging from the tiny woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis), to large, distinctive species such as the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), the puma (Puma concolor), the American black bear (Ursus americanus) and the moose (Alces americanus) (2) (5).
As well as terrestrial mammals, a large number of bat species are found in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. Many of these bats are threatened or of conservation concern, including species such as the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), the eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis), the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) and the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) (5).
Wisconsin’s Northwoods are home to a variety of birds, and the area is considered to be a centre of abundance for many flycatchers, thrushes and warblers, as well as numerous Neotropical migratory songbirds (9).
The Northwoods provide vital habitat for several bird species which are found nowhere else in Wisconsin, including the spruce grouse (Dendragapus canadensis), the great grey owl (Strix nebulosa), the black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus), the boreal chickadee (Parus hudsonicus), Wilson’s warbler (Wilsonia pusilla) and Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni) (10).
A number of birds found in the Northwoods are also considered ‘Threatened’ or ‘Endangered’ by the state of Wisconsin, such as the trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator), the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), the common tern (Sterna hirundo), the barn owl (Tyto alba), the loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) and Henslow’s sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii) (10). The cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulean) and the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) are also considered to be globally threatened (10) (11).
The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is probably Wisconsin’s most familiar game bird, and a common sight in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. Since its reintroduction to the state in 1976, this species’ population has increased dramatically, making it one of Wisconsin’s wildlife management success stories (5).
Reptiles and amphibians
There are 56 native reptile and amphibian species in Wisconsin, of which the mink frog (Lithobates septentrionalis) is found only in the Northwoods (5).
The Northwoods also provide a stronghold for two globally endangered freshwater turtles: the wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) and Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) (5) (11).
As with all forests, the Northwoods is inhabited by countless invertebrates, some of which are exceedingly rare, such as the cuckoo bee (Epeoloides pilosula). Around 530 invertebrate species have been identified as ‘Species of Greatest Conservation Need’ throughout the state of Wisconsin, many of which are found in the Northwoods (5).
Wisconsin’s Northwoods provide critical habitat for endangered butterflies such as the swamp metalmark (Calephelis mutica) and the northern blue butterfly (Lycaeides idas), while the numerous streams, lakes and rivers that criss-cross the region are home to freshwater molluscs such as the purple wartyback (Cyclonaias tuberculata), the cherrystone drop (Hendersonia occulta) and the slippershell mussel (Alasmidonta viridis) (5).
With its immense network of waterways, the Northwoods has an abundance of aquatic life, including fish such as the greater redhorse (Moxostoma valenciennesi) and pugnose shiner (Notropis anogenus), both of which are threatened in Wisconsin (5).