Býčí skála National Nature Reserve

The Býčí skála NNR lies in the deeply incised valley of the Křtinský potok stream in the central part of the Moravský kras PLA (the Moravian Karst) and in the north of the Jihomoravský kraj – South Moravian Region. The reserve was declared in 2004 and covers an area of 190.8 ha.

The territory represents the classic geological profile of the oldest minerals of the Moravian karst. The western part of the reserve is built of the granitic rocks of the Brno massif, which are overlain to the east by Devonian limestones.

Many surface and subsurface karst phenomena are found here. On the surface we can find karren and resurgences of ground water and the most notable underground feature is the Býčí skála cave. This is an exsurgence cave system of the underground Jedovnický potok stream, which is connected with the Rudice sinkhole cave system. The underground cave system is 13 kilometres in length. The Jáchymka dry cave is well-known for the finds of Quaternary period fauna which were made here, the rarest of which are the remains of the dog-like predator Cuon europaeus.

A wide variety of forest types have been preserved in the NNR, reflecting the variety of local conditions on the border of two geological basements, the ruggedness of the terrain with various expositions and the temperature inversion which is present here. The more thermophilous tree communities are the oakwoods with Cornelian cherry, with sessile oak (Quercus petraea), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and rarely with white or downy oak (Quercus pubescens), Mahaleb cherry (Prunus mahaleb) and barberry (Berberis vulgaris). Species found in the herb layer include cowslip (Primula veris), cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma), bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum) and others. In areas with colder climatic conditions we can find beech-fir forest or talus and ravine forest with sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), wych elm (Ulmus glabra) alongside massive examples of silver fir (Abies alba). Montane and submontane species can be found in the herb layer, including the critically-endangered bugbane (Cimicifuga europaea), perennial honesty (Lunaria rediviva), baneberry (Actaea spicata) etc. Part of the reserve is covered by beechwoods with beech (Fagus sylvatica), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos) and a herb layer including dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perennis), nine-leaved toothwort (Dentaria enneaphyllos), coralroot (Dentaria bulbifera) and others. Quite different vegetation has developed on the acidic basement of the Brno effusive rocks with dominant tree species – sessile oak (Quercus petraea), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and a herb layer including sheep’s fescue (Festuca ovina), the fescue Festuca pallens, sticky catchfly (Lychnis viscaria) and others. A unique feature here is the presence of the highly-endangered fern Woodsia ilvensis.

Troglodyte animal species are known to inhabit the Býčí skála caves, but the caves have even greater significance as a hibernating site for bats and several hundred bats gather here every winter. The most abundant are greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) with smaller numbers of lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros) and Geoffroy’s bat (Myotis emarginatus). The level of preservation and the variety of biotopes are illustrated by the butterfly population in the reserve. Of all the butterfly species present in the Czech Republic 28%, or 950 species, have been recorded here. Kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) are bound to the Křtinský potok stream. Many notable bird species live in the forest complexes, including stock dove (Columba oenas), middle-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), raven (Corvus corax) and tawny owl (Strix aluco).

The NNR and its surroundings are much visited by hikers, cyclists but also cavers and rock climbers. The Huť Františka historic metal works with exhibitions from the Brno Technical Museum will remind us of the rich history of extraction and working of iron ore. Archaeological finds illustrate the variety of uses which the Býčí skála cave had in the past. Evidence of Magdalenien settlement has been found here with unique etchings of lines and symbols on small Kulm period stones. The oldest cave painting in the Moravian karst from the late Stone Age (Eneolithic) has been dated at 5200 years old. The cave is best known for the find of the “Halstadt period princely burial” from the late Iron Age. We can also see evidence of the dramatic history of the cave from the remnants of the Second World War alterations when a German military factory was located here, in the “Předsíň – Entrance hall”. We can visit interesting localities in the NNR by following the themed trails “Josefovské údolí valley” and “Cesty železa – The Iron Way”.