A man-made cave that is to serve as a winter hibernation site for bats is being built in Tennessee outside of Clarksville. This is a one-of-a-kind project meant to be a safe haven for bats from white-nose syndrome, which is believed to have killed approximately six million bats in the United States since its presence was first discovered in North American bats in 2006.
This is the first bat cave of its kind. It’s a highly-experimental cave since there is no guarantee that bats will actually populate it come winter. There are two other artificial bat caves in Texas, but they serve as summer roosting sites, not as a hibernaculum.
Nature Conservancy Communications Manager Paul Kingsbury is optimistic the bats will come. He said the Conservancy has consulted leading bat experts, including those from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who feel that this will work. With the use of bats calls, the Conservancy hopes to attract bats into the climate-controlled cave.
It’s not guaranteed that white-nose syndrome won’t enter the cave, but if bats can survive the winter with the syndrome, they will heal through the summer. When the bats leave in warmer months, the Conservancy plans to sanitize the cave to rid it of any Geomyces destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome. Such sanitation is not possible in real caves since it would wipe out the entire ecosystem present in the cave – all the insects, amphibians, fish and other harmless fungi that live there.
Kingsbury said the Conservancy is racing to finish the cave by the time bats begin seeking a hibernation location in early to mid-October. Read the press release below to find out more about its construction, controlled habitat and the agricultural importance of bats.
An illustration depicting the cave-in-progress.
- Photo2 by The Nature Conservancy