News and Activities

Hurricane Ivan Wreaks Havoc on Southeast Refuges

Date Posted: September 24, 2004

Hurricane Ivan has caused considerable damage to 10 National Wildlife Refuges in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and the Panhandle of Florida as well as the Ecological Services office in Daphne, Alabama. National Fish Hatcheries in Georgia and Kentucky lost rainbow and brown trout populations due to power outages and storm water overflow. In addition, Vieques and Culebra NWRs in Puerto Rico, as well as the Loquillo Puerto Rican Parrot aviary suffered major water damage due to Tropical Storm Jeanne which dumped twenty-three inches of rain on the island closing both refuges throughout the weekend.

The worst damage from Hurricane Ivan has occurred in Alabama to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge located west of Gulf Shores, Alabama along the Fort Morgan Peninsula. The refuge is home to the endangered Alabama beach mouse, which depends on sand dunes along the beach for survival. Major primary dunes at Bon Secour were almost completely destroyed and tons of debris have washed up on the refuge, turning this once pristine area into a landfill. There are propane tanks, jet skis, fishing and other boats, parts of buildings such as walls and roofs, downed trees, and many other types of debris inundating the area. One of the refuge residences at Bon Secour suffered major structural damage. The refuge is closed to the public until further notice to ensure public safety. In addition, the Daphne, Alabama Ecological Services Field Office is also closed.

Service contaminant specialists are working numerous oil/hazmat spills throughout the area which have impacted wildlife. An emergency response crew including 32 Fish and Wildlife Service personnel, 18 trucks, 1 excavator, 1 backhoe, 14 chain saws, 4 volume pumps, 14 generators are currently supporting recovery efforts for the affected facilities at Bon Secour, Grand Bay, Choctaw and other Service facilities affected by hurricane force winds, heavy rains and high storm surges. Initial damage repair cost estimates available at this time exceed $10 million for Hurricane Ivan. Some areas have yet to be assessed due to continued flooding, high water and isolation from tree-blocked roads.

Wildlife impacts are expected to include loss of Alabama, Perdido Key and Choctawhatchee beach mice populations (all endangered species) due to severe impacts to primary dune habitat. Beach mice may move to higher ground during severe storms, but actual population loss will not be known for several weeks, until surveys can be done. Sea turtle nests are most likely destroyed or buried due to beach erosion, inundation, or deposition of additional sand over the nests. The endangered Mississippi sandhill crane, which is only found around Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR in Jackson County, MS may have been impacted, but surveys will be needed to assess damages. Additional impacts will undoubtedly be experienced by other species, such as birds and small mammals from habitat loss from trees and other vegetation damaged from the high winds or erosion on riverbanks and streams. Aquatic species will also be adversely impacted by additional sediments, effluents and contaminants washed into streams, lakes, and into the ocean.

For photos of hurricane damage visit our website at:

Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291

For photos of hurricane damage visit the Service's Southeast Region Web site at:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Last updated: June 12, 2015