Southeastern Cave Conservancy Acts to Protect Endangered Bat Populations in Caves

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc, (SCCi) has taken precautionary action to help protect bats from White Nose Syndrome (WNS) by temporarily closing several SCCi caves. We are working closely with specialists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partner organizations to make sure we are aware of all current WNS information and to respond appropriately. We will reopen our caves as soon as the Board determines that it is safe to do so.

Little brown bats with typical symptoms of White Nose Syndrome Credit: Nancy Heaslip, New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation As of April 16, 2009 the following caves have been closed:

Anderson Cave and Fern Cave (Fern Sink Entrance and Surprise Pit) in Alabama; Fricks Cave in Georgia; Frenchman Knob Cave and Logsdon Cave in Kentucky; Gourdneck Cave, Hardins Cave, Holly Creek Cave, Rattling Cave, Sinking Cove Cave Preserve caves, Snail Shell Cave, South Pittsburg Pit, Swirl Canyon Cave and Wolf River Cave, in Tennessee; and Lobelia Saltpeter Cave in West Virginia. The SCCi has a unique history and expertise at successfully balancing conservation and access interests. The SCCi board believes that its highest responsibility is to exercise sound stewardship of our caves and karst lands. This is our duty to the members and donors. While we recognize and sincerely regret that these closures may inconvenience those who would like visit these caves, we are very concerned by the possibility that visitors could inadvertently introduce WNS to SCCi caves and the bats that rely on them for critical habitat.   The SCCi board will be reviewing and discussing these actions at our upcoming quarterly board meeting and annual members’ meeting, both of which will be held on May 16, 2009. All interested parties are invited to attend and share their views and questions.

Reasons for the SCCi’s actions include:

WNS is lethal to hibernating bats, with a near-100% mortality rate. The cause of WNS is poorly understood, and no method of protection or remediation is yet known. WNS is rapidly approaching the southeastern U.S., having recently been confirmed in Virginia and West Virginia. There is mounting evidence that visitors may be unintentionally contributing to the spread of WNS. The stakes are very high, the potential damage is incalculable, and the WNS situation is evolving rapidly. For information and updates on the latest developments regarding WNS and SCCi caves, please see our web site at www.scci.org. For more information on White Nose Syndrome, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service WNS page at www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html, or the National Speleological Society’s WNS page at www.caves.org/WNS/WNS Info.htm.