The Donald R. Russell Cave Preserve is established as a biologic preserve to protect two distinct bat habitats. The management plan for the caves and properties described herein is written to achieve this goal.
History and General Description
Specific details on the property and the area surrounding it are described in the site visit report. This report was submitted as Attachment D-3 to the Board of Governors at their meeting, July I and July 5, 1991 and is hereby included by reference (see below).
The principle reason for the creation of this preserve is to protect two bat species which use the caves on the property.
The first of these is a colony of Plecodus T. Engins (Ozark Long-eared bat). In 1991 the colony numbers some 1300 individuals and is believed to be approximately 1/3 of the known population.
The other colony consists of Myotis G. and is believed to be bachelor males possibly split off from a maternity colony in Charlie Owl Cave located on a nearby tract of land owned by the Nature Conservancy.
In keeping with the goal of establishing a biological preserve, there will be no general access to the caves on this property. A limited number of scientific reseach projects may be undertaken. Requests for such research projects must be made in writing to the Research Advisory Committee for their review and recommendation. Final approval for any research taking place in this preserve must be given by the Board of Governors by simple majority vote.
Information about the Donald R. Russell Cave Preserve and the protected bat populations may be published as needed except that specific location of the caves and property is not to be included in any published material.
There will be no disturbance of the surface lands of the preserve. The overburden above the caves is very thin and any disturbance could cause harm to the bat colonies within the caves. No logging, road building, excavations or any other activity beyond normal land maintenance will be permitted.
The following general policies will apply to activities in the Donald R. Russell Cave Preserve.
This policy may be changed or amended by a majority vote of the Board of Governors.
On April 6, 1991, Tom Rea and I traveled to Stillwell, Oklahoma, to meet with Mr. Don Russell to discuss the caves and property he wishes to donate to the NSS. This report details our discussions with Mr. Russell, a visit of the property, and our recommendation regarding this gift.
The town of Stillwell is located in eastern Oklahoma 20 miles north of I-40 and 10 miles west of the Arkansas border. Tulsa lies 90 miles further west.
The terrain around Stillwell consists of gently rolling hills with numerous higher hills/low mountains.
Roughly half the land is used for pasture and agricultural activities while the remainder is forested.
Geology of the Caves
Refer to the attached description, "Caves of the Pitkin Limestone" supplied by Mr. Russell for information on the geology of the caves in the area.
A number of Indian artifacts have been found in Linda Bear Paw cave over the years. Those artifacts found are mainly in the twilight areas near the entrances. There is an ongoing dispute between property owners and the University of Oklahoma Archeology Department as to who controls access to archeological sites within the state. This is an ongoing situation and should not affect the bats within the caves.
The diagram below shows the relationship of the cave properties to other lands in the area.
: : : :
: NC : NC : NC :
: : : :
: NC : NC : NC :
: : : :
: NC : NC : NC :
: : : : :
: DN : DL : DL : DR :
(1) : :
: DN :
Legend: : DN : - Property being donated
: NC : - Nature Conservancy land
: DL : - Possible later donation
: DR : - Retained by Mr. Russell
Each block represents 10 acres.
Primary access to the property is through the tract being retained by Mr. Russell.
A small cabin is maintained there by Mr. Russell; used on weekends, while visiting the property and caves in the area. A portion of this tract has been deeded to his son, who lives there year round.
Mr. Russell also indicated his son favored the donation of the property and would also assist in taking care of the property.
Tract #1 is wooded with very little underbrush. Along the southern edge of the tract is a 60 foot cliff. Linda Bear Paw Cave lies below within this cliff.
Linda Bear Paw Cave is a low, meandering cave with numerous entrances in the cliff. According to Mr. Russell the cave is biologically attractive with a large colony of Myotis G. during the spring. These are probably males split off from a nearby maternity colony; possibly Charlie Owl Cave. A number of transient bats inhabit the cave during the summer.
Tract #2, also wooded, has more underbrush than tract #1. The tract lies atop a ridge with a drop off at both the east and west edges.
There are numerous cave remnants on the property. Most of these are small, being part of a one time larger cave system. This cave system is slowly collapsing, as the land above it erodes.
One of these remnants is a hibernaculum for a colony of Plecodus T. Engins (Ozark Long-eared bat). This colony represents as much a 1/3 of the known population of this species. This remnant has a possible connection to 3-Forks Cave on one of the tracts retained at this time by Mr. Russell. Mr. Russell has not pushed this connection for fear of disturbing the colony.
The Nature Conservancy
As noted in the diagram above, the Nature Conservancy owns 90 acres just north of Mr. Russell's property. This property has been owned by the Nature Conservancy for a number of years. Mr. Russell has been the steward for this land since 1973.
The property was purchased by the Nature Conservancy, but later the management of it was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service. This was in exchange for funds the Nature Conservancy used for other projects. The Nature Conservancy still retains the deed to the property.
Other Caves in the Area
There are two other major caves in the vicinity.
The first is 3-Forks Cave owned by Mr. Russell. It is a horizontal cave some 6,000 feet long; quite an impressive cave considering its development in a bed of limestone just 60 feet thick. The cave is gated, access is controlled by Mr. Russell. Bats also inhabit this cave.
The other major cave in the area is Charlie Owl Cave. This cave lies north of Mr. Russell"s property on land owned by the Nature Conservancy. Charlie Owl Cave contains a good size colony of Gray bats numbering some 25,000.
Mr. Russell indicated he would be willing to serve as caretaker of the properties, should the Society accept his donation. This is a role he has been serving as property owner for many years. He currently serves a similar role for the Nature Conservancy with regard to the Charlie Owl property.
As is typical of properties in this area, mineral rights are owned by a third party.
We feel the Society should accept the donation of this property from Mr. Russell. Our recommendation is to create a Biological Preserve to protect the bats residing in these caves.
The donation of this land would enhance the position of the Society as a conservation organization. Full details regarding the management of this property is detailed in the accompanying Cave Management Plan.
William G. Stringfellow
Once boasting a thick protective cap, the hills are losing the battle with the elements and many caves that once lay in the bosom of the limestone are now but filled trenches. The sloughing of the bluff-lines have covered an untold number of cave entrances.
The longest cave systems of Oklahoma lie just beneath the protective sandstone cap of the Hale formation. This cap is a mixture of sandstone and limestone. The beauty of the weathered Hale cap is enhanced by the leaching away of the limestone that has left the sandstone pitted and troughed in a myriad of ornate patterns. The Hale formation is a member of the Morrow Series which overlies the Pitkin Limestone formation. The Hale formation is of the Pennsylvanian system and the Pitkin formation of the Mississipian system. The Pitkin limestone is of the upper Chesterian series and ranges in thickness from thirty to one hundred and fifty feet. There is generally a separation of the two formations by a thin bed of shale which has played a significant part in the formation of the cave systems.
The caves in the Pitkin Limestone are nearly all of solution origin following fracture patterns. The fracturing being in the sandstone cap has allowed vadose waters to percolate down to and attack the pervious limestone. It was probably during the movement upwards of the land mass that the fractures occurred as their occurrence is mostly on the upthrown side of the fault-lines.
The main entrances into the Pitkin caves are generally sink entrances located on the tops of the hills or in the bluff-lines. On entering the caves, one is generally confronted with low breaksdown passage that changes to high, narrow chambers. The height of the ceilings are controlled by the amount of fill or breakdown that covers the floors since the sandstone ceiling appears almost geometrically flat in its plane across the tops of the hills. Passages commonly utilize the full thickness of the limestone -- sometimes exposing the impervious shale layer of the Fayetteville formation. Seldom do the passages cut any significant depth into this formation. Streams flowing through the caves resurge at the contacts of the Pitkin limestone formation and the Fayetteville formation.
Don Russell NSS 9417F