The York River and its watershed support many natural vegetative communities, from aquatic grass beds to tidal marshes to a variety of woodlands. These communities support a wide variety of resident and migratory amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. There are eight families and 26 species of amphibians and ten families and 36 species of reptiles represented within the York River watershed. All three species of sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Northern diamond-backed terrapin is a species of concern. Approximately 230 bird species, resident and migratory, have been recorded within the Chesapeake Bay area. Over 50 families and 190 species of birds have been observed along the estuarine environments of the York River. Specific Reserve components support Bald Eagle nests and Great Blue Heron rookeries. Nineteen families and 50 species of mammals are represented within the York River and its watershed. Of special note is the infrequent occurrence of large marine mammals, such as the bottlenose dolphin and manatee, within the lower York River region.

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