Proposed Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge
Conserving the Nature of America
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Benefits to Wildlife

Endangered and Threatened Species

The Paint Rock River watershed is home to a number of mussel, fish, and bats on the verge of extinction. Protecting habitats in the watershed would help recover these animals and contribute to their removal from the endangered species list. Conserving aquatic species is a challenge, because water quality is directly affected by how adjacent land is used. Protecting and restoring streambanks and riparian forests is crucial. However, upland forests also need to be conserved to ensure a clean and reliable source of water. Additionally, authorizing a conservation partnership area would allow the Service to work with adjoining landowners interested in managing their property in a way that benefits the rare animals on the refuge.

Some imperiled animals that would benefit from Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge include:

Alabama Lampmussel, Endangered

The endangered Alabama lampmussel (Lampsilis virescens) typically inhabits sand and gravel substrates in small to medium-sized streams. A viable population of Alabama lampmussel exists in the Paint Rock River above the impounded portion in Wheeler Reservoir up to and including Larkin Fork, Estill Fork, Hurricane Creek and their tributaries, and is found in only one other watershed, the Emory River, located in north-central Tennessee.

Alabama lampmussel

Fine-rayed Pigtoe, Endangered

The endangered fine-rayed pigtoe (Fusconaia cuneolus) has been collected in 16 different river systems including the Paint Rock River. Many of the historic populations of the fine-rayed pigtoe were apparently lost when the river sections they inhabited were impounded. The fine-rayed pigtoe is found in moderate to high gradient streams with firm cobble or gravel substrates. It appears to prefer riffle areas; however, given the rarity of the species, little is known about specific habitat needs.

Fine-rayed pigtoe

Pale Lilliput, Endangered

The endangered pale lilliput (Toxolasma cylindrellus) is typically found in small rivers and streams in shallow fast-flowing water with stable, clean substrate. A viable population of pale lilliput exists in the Paint Rock River, Estill Fork and Hurricane Creek, and is found nowhere else in the world.

Pale lilliput

Pink Mucket, Endangered

The endangered pink mucket (Lampsilis abrupta) is found in mud and sand and in shallow riffles and shoals swept free of silt in major rivers and tributaries. This mussel buries itself in sand or gravel, with only the edge of its shell and its feeding siphons exposed. Under the right conditions, this mussel species can live up to 50 years old.

Pink mucket

Rough Pigtoe, Endangered

The endangered rough pigtoe (Pleurobema plenum) is found in medium to large rivers in sand and gravel substrates. Historically, this species was widely distributed in 22 major rivers. Decline of this species, as with most mussels, is due to impoundment, siltation, and pollution.

Rough pigtoe

Shiny Pigtoe, Endangered

The endangered shiny pigtoe (Fusconaia cor) was discovered in the mid-1960s in the Paint Rock River and historically occurred in five other river systems. The present range includes the Paint Rock, North Fork Holston, Clinch, Powell, and Elk rivers. In 1980, this species was observed at seven sites in Alabama along the Paint Rock River. The shiny pigtoe is a riffle species and prefers moderate to swiftly flowing streams and rivers with stable substrates. The species is not found in deep water or impounded areas

Shiny pigtoe

Snuffbox, Endangered

The endangered snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra) is a small to medium-sized freshwater mussel found in areas with a swift current, although it is also found in Lake Erie and some larger rivers. Adults often burrow deep in sand, gravel or cobble substrates, except when they are spawning or the females are attempting to attract host fish. It once occurred in the Tennessee River and some of its tributaries; however, the snuffbox is now known only to persist in approximately 30 miles of the Paint Rock River and its tributaries. The Paint Rock River is considered a stronghold for the snuffbox with documented recruitment occurring, population trends improving, and its potential viability considered high.


Anthony’s Riversnail, Endangered

Anthony’s riversnail (Athearnia anthonyi) is an endangered species known from only three disjunct populations in the Tennessee River system: the Tennessee River, Sequatchie River, and Limestone Creek. Although much of its life history remains unknown, this species prefers medium to large river habitats with cobble/boulder substrates in the vicinity of riffles with strong current. Population demographics are only available for the Limestone Creek population, which appears to be a viable population. This species has not been recently found in the Paint Rock River.

Anthony's riversnail

Palezone Shiner, Endangered

The endangered palezone shiner (Notropis albizonatus) usually occurs in moderately large, high-gradient, clear streams flowing over bedrock, cobble, or gravel mixed with clean sand; it prefers pools and pool runs below riffles. This small minnow is highly restricted in distribution, found only in the Tennessee River drainage in Alabama and Tennessee and to the north in the Cumberland River drainage in Kentucky. In Alabama, it occurs only in the upper Paint Rock River system.

Palezone shiner

Gray Bat, Endangered

The endangered gray bat (Myotis grisescens) occurs throughout the Paint Rock River Watershed with the largest known hibernaculum of approximately one million bats in Fern Cave. Gray bats live in caves year-round. During the winter gray bats hibernate in deep, vertical caves. In the summer, they roost in caves which are scattered along rivers. Gray bats typically hunt insects over water. This species of bat is susceptible to the fungus that causes white nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern US over the past few years.

Gray bat

Indiana Bat, Endangered

The endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) occurs throughout the Paint Rock River Watershed. Indiana bats are quite small, weighing only one-quarter of an ounce (about the weight of three pennies) although in flight they have a wingspan of 9 to 11 inches. Their fur is dark-brown to black. They hibernate during winter in caves or, occasionally, in abandoned mines. During summer they roost under the peeling bark of dead and dying trees. Indiana bats eat a variety of flying insects found along rivers or lakes and in uplands.

Indiana bat

Snail Darter, Threatened

The threatened snail darter (Percina tanasi) is found over gravel and sand shoals with moderate current in large tributaries and free-flowing rivers. Snail darters were originally thought to occur only in the lower Little Tennessee River and adjacent Tennessee River. However, sampling confirmed their presence in the lower Paint Rock River. Introduction and subsequent sampling expanded their range into Chickamauga Creek, a downstream segment of the Tennessee River, and the Sequatchie, Hiwassee, Holston, and Elk River systems.

Snail darter




A verdant forested landscape

Photo: Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.


Last updated: January 16, 2013