Wildlife & Habitat

Wildlife Habitat Hdr 512W

The refuge lies within the Appalachian fold and thrust belt with thrust faults dipping towards the southwest. It is close to the city of Anniston and lies approximately 65 miles east of Birmingham and 90 miles west of Atlanta. The 7,759 acre refuge was legislatively established on May 31, 2003 on land once owned by the U.S. Army. In 2003, Joint Power Authority contributed 1,257 for a total of 9,106 acres.

  • Gray Bat

    Gray Bat 150W

    The gray bat can be found in dark caves around Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Northern Arkansas. They can be identified by the solid gray fur on their backs. The population of these bats are decreasing due to flooding caves, pollution, and opening caves to the public. Many bats are killed by humans since they are thought to have rabies. Gray bats like to stay in large groups, making them as easy target.

  • White Fringeless Orchid

    White Fringeless Orchid 150W

    White fringeless orchid (Platanthera integrilabia) is a perennial herb with a showy white flower that grows in wet, boggy areas at the heads of streams and on sloping areas kept moist by groundwater seeping to the surface. It is often associated with sphagnum moss in partially, but not fully, shaded areas. In 2016, the white fringeless orchid was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Its range includes North Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee, although it is sparsely populated in its range.

  • Migratory Birds

    Pine Warbler 150W

    More than 68 species of migratory birds can be found in the longleaf pine ecosystem, many of which are in decline. The reduction of human-induced and natural disturbances have led to a decrease in available natural early successional habitat that supports these birds. This has led to diminishing populations in some species including threatened or endangered species, as well as those which, although still common and widespread, are currently experiencing substantial declines.

    Longleaf pine density and canopy closure are not the only habitat components important to early successional bird species. The understory community also provides important feeding and nesting habitat. For example, grassland communities are common ground cover in longleaf pine stands and contain a wide variety of plant species important to some species of birds. Grassland and early successional bird species such as Easter Meadowlark, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Bobwhite and Mourning Dove are the most abundant species during the establishment period. As the stand develops in the absence of disturbance or fire, the herbaceous understory plants are replaced by shrubby species, and height and structural complexity increase. These vegetation changes are accompanied by corresponding changes in the avian community. Grassland and early successional bird species such as eastern meadowlark and northern bobwhite decline, whereas shrub-successional species such as indigo bunting, yellow-breasted chat, common yellowthroat, and prairie warbler increase, and peaking 3 to 10 years after stand establishment. As the stand continues to age, grassland birds disappear, shrub-successional species decline, and forest birds begin to occupy the site. Therefore, although total bird species diversity increases with the age of the stands, species diversity and abundance of declining grassland and early successional bird species decrease.

  • Longleaf Pine Forests

    Longleaf 150W

    Longleaf pine forests on the refuge exhibit a number of qualities that will be advantageous to future restoration efforts; (1) existing stands of old-growth or naturally regenerated second-growth already exist on much of the Refuge; (2) the herbaceous ground layer, in many situations, is intact and comprises an extremely diverse native fire-adapted plant cover; (3) artificial planting has never occurred and genetic contamination is not an issue; and (4) fire has continually been part of the landscape under army ownership for the previous hundred years. The primary requirement for restoration on the refuge involves the reintroduction of fire back into the forest community. Additional areas where hardwoods have encroached and invasive pines have become established or where seedling stocking is low will require more intensive restoration efforts.
    Longleaf pine trees are a key species in a complex fire-dependent ecosystem in the Southeast. These forests primarily owe their existence to lightning-related wildfires that were augmented by Native American practices of burning the forest. The former pre-settlement forest is believed to have evolved through lightning fires that occurred from May through July at an interval of two to eight years.

  • Spring Seeps

    Mountain Seeps 150W

    Spring seeps are found on mountain slopes and along the base of ridges. These communities are highly variable and range from seasonal spring seeps a few yards in diameter to larger perennial seepages up to several acres in size. The smaller seeps often exist as a local community within a larger forest type while larger seeps have a characteristic wetland shrub and forest overstory. The four largest seeps are associated with headwater springs of the four major refuge drainages; South Branch Cane Creek, North Branch Cane Creek, Cave Creek and Bains Gap Creek.