National Wildlife Refuge
|2700 Refuge Headquarters Road
Decatur, AL 35603
Phone Number: 256-353-7243
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Recreational and educational opportunities abound at the refuge. From hunting to fishing to wildlife observation, there's an opportunity for everyone to "Go Wild" at Wheeler|
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
Wheeler NWR, located along the Tennessee River between Huntsville and Decatur, was established in 1938 to provide habitat for wintering and migrating birds. Considered the easternmost Refuge in the Mississippi flyway, this 34,500 acre Refuge attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and supports the southernmost and Alabama's only significant concentration of wintering Southern James Bay Canada geese. It also serves as winter habitat for the State's largest duck population. In addition to migratory birds, the Refuge hosts 115 species of fish, 74 species of reptiles and amphibians, 47 species of mammals, and 285 different species of songbirds. The Refuge is also home to 10 federally listed endangered or threatened species.
Wheeler NWR is comprised of a great diversity of habitat types such as bottomland hardwoods, wetlands, pine uplands, agricultural fields, and backwater embayments. These habitats provide excellent feeding, loafing, and roosting sites for waterfowl, as well as nesting sites for migrating songbirds. The Refuge provides a much needed oasis in one of the fastest growing regions in the state, with Madison being ranked as one of the top ten fasting growing cities in the nation in 2002.
Getting There . . .
Wheeler NWR is located in Decatur, Alabama, about 80 miles north of Birmingham and 30 miles west of Huntsville. From Interstate 65, take exit 334 and travel west on highway 67. The Refuge visitor center is 2 miles on the left and the Refuge headquarters is 2.5 miles on the right.
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Wheeler NWR staff use a variety of different management techniques in order to provide the most diverse, quality habitat possible. One of the largest management programs involves the planting of agricultural crops such as corn, milo, millet and winter wheat to provide food for ducks, geese, and other wildlife. Over four thousand acres of land are farmed by neighboring farmers under a cooperative farm agreement. The Refuge's share of crops is typically 25% and is left standing to be manipulated later so that it is available to wildlife.
The Refuge also manages 2,500 acres of wetlands by raising and lowering water levels in a controlled manner. This type of management also provides food for waterfowl by encouraging the growth of native moist soil plants which produce large amounts of seeds. Examples of these types of plants include various sedges, smartweeds, and wild millet. Shallow flooding grain crops also makes agricultural fields more attractive to waterfowl and increases food availability.
Refuge forests are maintained in a healthy state through a combination of timber management practices such as thinning and complete harvest to prevent the spread of southern pine beetle. Habitat management for the benefit of migratory songbirds and other wildlife species is the primary goal of all Refuge timber harvests.