Buffalo National River

Buffalo National River

Buffalo National River Park closes caves temporarily to protect bats from fungus

November 30, 2009, 7:40 am

To help stop the spread of the fungus thought to cause White Nose Syndrome, which is fatal to bats, many Buffalo National River caves are now closed to recreational caving until further notice, the park's superintendent announced this week. Bat Cave on the trail system at Buffalo Point is one which is closed.

Caves which will remain open include:

Caves in Lost Valley from Eden Falls Cave to the Lost Valley Campground parking area: Eden Falls Cave, Lost Valley Natural Bridge, Cob Cave and Natural Bridge Cave. Caves along the trail system at Buffalo Point, except for Bat Cave, which is closed: Indian Rockhouse Cave, Indian Rockhouse Sink, Panther Cave, Twenty-Nine and a Half Cave, Forest Trail Pit, Over-look(ed) Cave, Bullet Cave and Sinkhole Icebox. Back O' Beyond Cave and Silver Hill Cave are open only for NPS guided interpretive toursAccording to park Geologist Chuck Bitting, Buffalo National River is one of the most cave-rich units of the National Park System with more than 360 documented caves. The caves contain three species of bat on the Federal Endangered Species List, as well as four bat species which are not listed.All cave research in the park requires a permit, he said. Permits require protocols to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome to or between park caves. Researchers must carry a copy of the permit with them while in the cave(s) and traveling through the park to and from the cave(s).Bitting said bat guano is often considered the base of the food chain for a complex ecosystem, and the loss of bats to White Nose Syndrome could cause the extinction of several species only found in the Buffalo River area. The cave ecosystem also contains wood rats, salamanders, frogs, insects, spiders, and other arthropods.