Wildlife and Habitat
The Dismal Swamp is a birding hot spot for local birders with over 160 species observed in 2010. The Dismal Swamp is home many state-threatened and endangered species including American bittern, northern harrier, red-shouldered hawk, bald eagle, osprey, pied-billed grebe, and grasshopper sparrow.
The Dismal Swamp is also a critical habitat zone for migratory passerine, providing cover and foraging capabilities for numerous species as they migrate to and from breeding grounds. Some highlighted species which are solely migratory in the region include Philadelphia vireo, Swainson’s thrush, blackpoll warbler, and blackburnian warbler.
The Dismal Swamp is home to over 17 species of mammals, which include southern flying squirrels, eastern coyotes, muskrats, eastern red bats, and red fox. The American beaver (pictured above) is very active along the Bound Brook and its tributaries and plays an important role in the successional dynamics within the Dismal Swamp.
Reptiles and Amphibians
The Dismal Swamp has over 18 species of reptiles and amphibians. Red-backed salamanders and northern spring peepers are the most abundant amphibians while painted turtles and eastern garter snakes are the most abundant reptiles. Other species include northern black racers, northern water snakes, bog turtles, and northern gray treefrogs.
Statewide, the number of vernal pools habitats has declined drastically because of increased development and limited regulatory protection; however the 2008 revision to the freshwater wetland regulations has afforded further protection to vernal habitat. Vernal habitat is now considered critical habitat. There are many vernal habitats within the Dismal Swamp that serve as breeding grounds for wood frogs, spring peepers, green frogs, and northern cricket frogs.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection identifies the majority of the Dismal Swamp as deciduous forested wetlands, with some portions depicted as deciduous shrub/scrub wetlands, or mixed shrub/scrub wetlands dominated with conifers. The forested wetlands are dominated by red maple, sweetgum, green ash, swamp white oak, and pin oak. Upland forested areas in the Dismal Swamp are considered to be valuable mature forests, greater than 50 years old. The forest and wetlands in Edison Township have been specifically identified as core habitat areas.
The shrub layer is dominated by highbush blueberry, swamp azalea, and arrowwood. The herbaceous layer includes skunk cabbage, jewelweed, sensitive fern, and cinnamon fern. The emergent wetland communities include spikerush, sedges, bulrushes, pickerel weed, soft rush, burreed, tearthumb, and cattail.