Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Welcome to Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge

Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

Key Cave NWR is one of eleven National Wildlife Refuges located in the State of Alabama.

 

Refuge Facts:

  • Established: The refuge was established in 1997 “... to conserve (A) fish or wildlife which are listed as endangered species or threatened species... or (B) plants... U.S.C. 1534 (Endangered Species Act of 1973).”
  • Acres: 1,060
  • Location: Key Cave NWR is located about 5 miles southwest of Florence, Alabama.
  • Administered by: Key Cave NWR is a satellite Refuge of Wheeler NWR in nearby Decatur, AL. Key Cave NWR is currently unstaffed and all management activities are carried out by Wheeler NWR staff.
  • Wildlife: It provides habitat for Alabama cavefish and gray bats. Several bird species that are of management concern also use Key Cave NWR’s grasslands. These species include grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels, northern harriers, short-eared owls, loggerhead shrikes, and northern bobwhites.
  • Habitats: Key Cave NWR consists of hardwood forests, grasslands and croplands. In 2005, about 295 acres were in corn and soybean production.

Key Cave NWR, located about 5 miles southwest of Florence, Alabama, was established in 1997 to ensure the biological integrity of Key Cave. Key Cave has been designated as critical habitat for the endangered Alabama cavefish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) and as a priority one maternity cave for the endangered gray bat (Myotis grisescens). The cave is on the northern shore of Pickwick Lake in a limestone karst area that contains numerous sinkholes and several underground cave systems. The area’s sinkholes are an integral component of groundwater recharge to the cave. The area directly north of Key Cave was identified as a potential high hazard risk area for groundwater recharge and this is where the 1,060-acre Refuge was established.

The Refuge protects the only known population of the endangered Alabama cavefish, and just nine specimens are known to exist in scientific collections. Based on the apparent distribution, the number of specimens collected, and the number of individuals observed, this small fish appears to be the rarest of American cavefish and one of the rarest of all freshwater fish. Two species of blind crayfish (Procambarus pecki and Cambarus jonesi) also inhabit Key Cave. Additionally, the cave is used by up to 40,000 endangered gray bats.

Several bird species that are of management concern also use Key Cave NWR’s grasslands. These species include grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels, northern harriers, short-eared owls, loggerhead shrikes, and northern bobwhites.

Last updated: June 15, 2009