The Northeastern Cave Conservancy (NCC) announced today it is closing three of its caves for the winter, effective October 1, to protect hibernating bats in response to the continuing White Nose Syndrome crisis in the northeast.
The affected caves are Knox Cave, Crossbones Cave, and Ella Armstrong Cave, all in New York state. The caves are scheduled to re-open May 15, 2009.
The other caves owned and managed by the NCC contain few or no bats, and will remain open for visitation. Details about all NCC caves and visitation may be found on the NCC web site.
Action by the NCC parallels that of the National Speleological Society, which is also closing its three New York cave preserves for the winter – Schoharie Caverns, Gage Cave (Barton Hill Preserve), and McFail’s Cave.
Knox, Schoharie, and Gage Caves were three of the initial “ground zero” sites where White Nose Syndrome devastated bat populations over the past two winters, including the federally-endangered Indiana bat.
White Nose Syndrome remains a mystery. Caving organizations, scientists, and wildlife officials have been coordinating activities in an attempt to find what caused hundreds of thousands of bats to literally starve to death. Researchers are currently examining bats as they prepare to go into hibernation to see if they have adequate stores of body fats necessary to survive the winter.
NCC President, Robert Addis, said, “Closing these particular caves in conjunction with the NSS and Fish and Wildlife officials, will allow us to study the continuing impact on the bats in these affected sites, and hopefully permit the remaining bats to begin to recover their historic numbers.” Bats typically give birth to only one pup a year, so population recovery will take years.
White Nose Syndrome has affected virtually every cave and mine used by bats within an 80-mile radius of the initial sites, including in NY, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Cavers and other visitors to any caves in the northeast are asked to avoid visiting any caves with bats during the hibernation season.
In addition, anyone visiting caves outside the region or moving from an affected site to a clean site is asked to clean and decontaminate their cave gear and clothing according to protocols found on the US Fish and Wildlife web site. The Northeastern Cave Conservancy is committed to the conservation, study, management, and acquisition of caves and karst areas having significant geological, hydrological, biological, recreational, historical, or aesthetic features. The NCC owns and manages nine non-commercial caves in the northeast.