Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located about 5 miles southwest of Florence, Alabama, was established in 1997 to ensure the biological integrity of Key Cave. The cave is located south of the NWR but the refuge lands protect the groundwater recharge zone of Key Cave.
Key Cave has been designated as critical habitat for the endangered Alabama Cavefish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) and as a priority one maternity cave for the endangered Gray Bat (Myotis grisescens).
The refuge protects the only known population of the endangered Alabama Cavefish, a small fish that appears to be the rarest of American cavefish and one of the rarest of all freshwater fish in the nation.
In addition, two species of blind crayfish (Procambarus pecki and Cambarus jonesi) also inhabit Key Cave. The cave is used by up to 40,000 endangered Gray Bats.
One hundred and sixty bird species have been sighted on the refuge. Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and Field Sparrows (Spizella pusilla) are common breeding residents. Several bird species of conservation concern use Key Cave NWR?s grasslands. They include Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus), Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus), Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus), Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus), Dickcissels (Spiza americana), Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum), and Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna). Key Cave supports the state's highest density of Grasshopper Sparrows and Dickcissels.
Northern Bobwhite covey call surveys conducted each fall for the past 11 years have counted 13-20 coveys (156-240 individuals based on an average of 12 individuals/covey as found in the literature) on the refuge (Dwight Cooley USFWS, personal communication).
This site is considered part of the North Alabama Birding Trail.
Habitats on site consist of upland hardwood forests, oak-hickory forest, and restored native warm-season grasslands the latter consisting of Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, Sideoats Gramma, Switchgrass, and Eastern Gramagrass.
In 2005, about 295 acres were in corn and soybean production.
The refuge serves as a groundwater recharge area for Key Cave which, in turn, supports three species of endangered aquatic fauna (two blind crayfish, and one cavefish species), and the endangered Gray Bat.