Visitor Activities

  • Hunting

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

    As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management. 

    Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.

    Upland small game hunting is permitted on a very small portion of the refuge and is subject to the State of Alabama's Sauty Creek Wildlife Management Area Regulations.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Sauta Cave itself is gated and not open to the public due to the potential for disturbance of federally endangered gray and Indiana bats. Other portions of the 264- acre Refuge are open to the public. Persons wishing to visit the cave may park outside the Refuge entrance gate and walk to the cave entrance. DO NOT BLOCK THE GATE. During the months of June, July, and August, one of nature's most spectacular events occurs every evening. At dusk, 200,000-400,000 bats leave the cave to begin their nightly foraging. Large numbers of visitors may go to the cave on summer weekends.
    To view the bat emergence, park at the Refuge entrance gate and walk approximately 100 yards to the cave entrance on your right. A wildlife viewing platform has been constructed to aid in the viewing experience. The best viewing will be from either side of the cave entrance.

  • Interpretation

    Refuge System interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, many national wildlife refuges help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.

    In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors.  Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species.

    Through Refuge System interpretation programs, you can learn why nearly all of the critically endangered Whooping Cranes spend the winter at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, about the beneficial role of wildfire to encourage native vegetation to grow at Necedah Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, and thousands of other interesting and informative stories.

  • Environmental Education

    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences.  Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities.  Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular national wildlife refuge?  Contact or visit Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Complex to check on program availability and reservation policies.  Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

    During the summer bat emergence counts are conducted, as well as formal bat emergence viewings.  

  • Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive!