Rules and Regulations

Rules & Regulations 232x139

At Refuges, Wildlife Rules

National Wildlife Refuges are places where wildlife comes first. There are lots of fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the refuge. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and doesn’t help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, then the activity is probably not allowed. Please check with the refuge headquarters before participating in an activity that could harm the environment or yourself. There are plenty of activities on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge for you to enjoy. Be safe and have fun! Below is a list of rules and regulations for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge Hours

Visitors are welcome to recreate in the refuge during daylight hours. Refuge office is open from 7:00 am – 4:30 pm Monday through Thursday and 7:00 am – 3:30 pm on Friday. The refuge office is closed on all Federal holidays. The Visitor Center is open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily from November thru February and 9:00 am – 4:00 pm Tuesday thru Saturday from March thru October. The Visitor Center is closed on Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In order to understand permitted and prohibited activities as well as refuge specific rules and closures on Wheeler NWR, you should read the following:

Permitted Activities
  • We allow hunting of deer, feral hogs, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, and quail in designated areas of the refuge in accordance with special refuge hunting regulations. You must also possess a refuge hunt permit, which is available at the Visitor Center or online. State regulations also apply to hunting on the refuge.Learn more about specific refuge hunting regulations...
  • We allow fishing at the refuge except in the Display Pool and the Special Events Fishing Pond. These two ponds are adjacent to the Visitor Center and are always closed to all visitors. All state regulations apply.
  • We allow hiking, wildlife observation, and photography in areas that are not posted as closed to public entry.
  • We allow biking on graveled roads, including on gated roads, within the refuge. Bicycles are not allowed on refuge nature trails.  Click here to view regulations on e-bikes usage on the refuge.
  • We allow horseback riding on open graveled roads within the refuge. Horses are not allowed behind any closed gates or on any trails within the refuge.
  • We allow pets on the refuge except in buildings. Pets are not allowed to roam out of the owner’s direct control (see below for areas where leashes are required).
  • We allow the use of dogs for authorized hunting activities in compliance with refuge hunting regulations. 
  • We allow boating, canoeing and kayaking in the Tennessee River and its tributaries, refuge impoundments and canals in accordance with the specific refuge rules, and unless specifically closed. See closure section…

The prohibitions listed below are general regulations and represent the most common encountered on Wheeler NWR. For a full list of general refuge regulations consult: Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations parts Part 25 – 32: The National Wildlife Refuge System
  • You may not take, remove, harass, injure, cut or disturb any natural material, wildlife or plants, except when engaged in lawful hunting and fishing activities or that which is allowed in the following refuge specific rules. Additionally, you may not take frogs, crayfish or turtles.
  • You may possess firearms , including handguns, in compliance with Federal and State firearms laws, however you may not possess firearms in refuge buildings.
  • You may not use artificial light sources to view or take wildlife. 
  • You may not release animals or plants into the refuge.
  • Pets must not interfere with others or disturb wildlife.
  • You may not search for, collect, or remove archaeological or historic objects and/or take artifacts or objects of antiquity. You may not use metal detectors.
  • No littering, including discarding animal remains. However, hunters may field dress game animals taken as a result of authorized refuge hunting activities as long as the remains are not left within 50 feet of any roadway or trail.
  • You may not use ATV’s or any other motorized vehicles which are not legal to operate on the roadways of Alabama.
  • You may not enter into areas which are posted as closed or are designated as closed areas. 
  • You may not drive around closed gates or cables or drive on roads that are closed off by closed gates or cables. Learn more about gate closure schedule… 
  • You may not leave an unattended vehicle in front of a gate so that it blocks the free movement of other vehicles or farming equipment.
  • You may not operate vehicles off of paved or graveled roads, including fields, ditches or mud holes which are along the edge of roads. 
  • You may not start or maintain a fire of any type.
  • You may not possess alcohol in Limestone or Morgan counties.
  • You may not disobey any regulatory sign.

Refuge Specific Rules
In accordance with 50 CFR § 25.31(d) and 26.22 (a), the following rules specifically apply to activities on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.
  • You may not cut and/or collect downed wood unless you possess a valid refuge issued Downed Wood Permit, which is available at the Visitor Center or Refuge Office.
  • You may not feed wildlife.
  • You may not dig or excavate.
  • You may not use air-thrust vessels, inboard water-thrust vessels or may not water ski or tube outside of the main Tennessee River channel.
  • You may not overnight camp.
  • You must keep pets on a leash while in the Visitor Center complex (which includes Airport Rd), or on any trail, parking area, boat ramp or boardwalk.
  • You may collect berries, fruit and nuts for personal use.
  • You may not possess any chemical, which is intended to be used, to unlawfully mark, deface or vandalize anything on the refuge.
  • You may not use surface-drive outboard motors, such as a “go-devil” or “mud buddy”, from November 1st thru March 15th, unless engaged in authorized hunting or fishing activities.
Some areas within the refuge may be closed to public. Be aware of signs indicating closed areas as they are subject to change. See refuge closure map for details of the normal closures and obey all posted signs.
  • The Garth Slough closure area is closed to all public entry, including foot travel, from November 15 thru January 15 (reopens January 15). This area includes the lands and waters south of the Tennessee River from the I-65 Bridge eastward to Mussel Camp Road and, within that extent, from the southern refuge boundary, including Truck Trail West, northward to the Tennessee River’s current water line.
  • The Flint Creek Island closure area is closed to all public entry year round. This area includes the lands and waters south of Point Mallard Parkway to the southern segment of Airport Road, and from Airport Road westward to the shoreline of Crabtree Slough. The Visitor Center Complex, within this area, is open to public access during normal business hours. The Visitor Center Complex includes the access road, the Visitor Center and Observation building as well as the marked walking trails. See the Flint Creek Island closure area for details and obey all posted signs.
  • The Refuge Office is open to public entry during normal business hours only. The area/grounds surrounding the office is closed to public access at all times.
  • Crabtree Slough is closed to all entry from November 15th thru February 28th. However, you may fish from the Crabtree Slough dike year round.
  • Dinsmore Slough is closed to all entry from November 15th thru February 28th.     
  • The White Springs Unit is closed to all watercraft from November 15th thru February 28th. This area lies within Limestone County and extends from Highway 31 eastward to Limestone Bay and, within that extent, from Highway 20 south to the Tennessee River Backwater, then eastward along the Tennessee River to Limestone Creek.
  • CAVE CLOSURES: All caves on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge are closed to public access.  The reason for this closure is to protect the sensitive cave species and habitats within these caves on Wheeler NWR.
Links and References
Federal Wildlife Laws

Title 16 United States Code: Conservation

Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations:
Parts 10 – 16: Taking, possession, transportation, sale, purchase, barter, exportation and importation of wildlife and plants
Part 17 Endangered Species
Part 18: Marine Mammals
Part 19: Airborne Hunting Act
Part 20 – 21: Migratory Birds
Part 23: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES)
Part 25 – 32: National Wildlife Refuges

U.S. Department of Justice Environment & Natural Resources Division

Alabama Statutes