Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Wildlife Management

Gray Bat Hibernating. Credit: USFWS

Gray Bat Hibernating. Credit: USFWS

The predominant management activities are law enforcement and resource protection aimed at protecting the critical habitat of the federally listed endangered gray (Myotis grisescens) and Indian (Myotis sodalis) bats. Law enforcement patrols are conducted to insure that people are abiding by Refuge regulations, particularly rules prohibiting entrance into the cave itself.

Land acquisition continues to be a priority as there is still adjoining private land that contains a cave entrance. The Service cannot fully control access into the cave and protect the bats from disturbance as long as there is still access off-Refuge. Land will continue to be purchased when and if there are any willing sellers and funds are available.

A majority of the Refuge is on the western slope of Nat Mountain, located between Scottsboro and Huntsville, Alabama. The eastern-most section starts at about 1500 feet in elevation and the northwestern edge borders the Paint Rock River, a tributary of the Tennessee River, at about 590 feet. The higher elevations are dominated by hickory-oak-pine forest with bottomland hardwoods such as oak, basswood, maple and beech along the lower, wetter areas.

Although this refuge is only 199 acres in size, there is a diversity of species that make their home here. Two hundred species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians use the refuge. A unique array of cave fauna in addition to the endangered bats abound. One survey expedition by a biologist and geologist documented cave fish (Typhlichthys subterraneous), cave crayfish (one female with eggs), surface crayfish, banded sculpins (Cottus carolinae), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), yellow bullhead catfish (Ictalurus natalis), cave salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga), northern slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus), honey-colored crickets (Orthoptera: Euhadonecus), mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae), crane flies (Tipulidae), heliomyzid flies (Diptera: Heliomyzidae), frogs (Anura), and white millipedes (Diplopoda). Above ground, white-tailed deer, turkeys, migratory songbirds, squirrels, oppossums, raccoons, and rabbits abound.

Last updated: June 15, 2009