Mammals play a vital role in maintaining balance in the ecosystem. 




Mammals occurring on the Wheeler NWR represent most species that are found in the Tennessee River Valley and that are usually associated with bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands. 


Large mammals include white-tailed deer and feral hog (an invasive species). Medium-sized mammals include opossum, armadillo, eastern cottontail, swamp rabbit, beaver, muskrat, mink, coyote, red fox, gray fox, raccoon, striped skunk, and bobcat.White-tailed deer appear to be abundant based on general observations. 


Limited deer population surveys have been conducted to date; however, general observations and available habitat all point to a healthy and abundant deer herd. Although no formal surveys have been conducted, it appears from general observations that feral hog populations are increasing on the refuge. Most of the damage to habitat has been documented in the White Springs Dewatering Unit, located in Limestone County.  


Several mammals associated with the more permanently inundated wetlands and swamps, such as beaver, muskrat, swamp rabbits, and mink, appear to have healthy populations. Cottontail rabbit, raccoon, opossum, coyote, bobcat, fox, and gray squirrels also appear to be abundant on Wheeler NWR.


Beavers have a tremendous potential negative impact on bottomland hardwoods and forested wetlands. They interfere with wildlife management activities by plugging culverts, ditches, and water control structures. This action also backs water up onto private adjoining lands. Problems associated with the impounding of water by beaver are proving to be the single greatest threat to timber resources within the refuge. Little or no formal data are available to provide population estimates for these species. However, general observations and data collected from control efforts indicate that the number of beavers have increased in recent years.