Cave Management Workshop with Bat Survey Solutions

5/22/19
By Merlin Tuttle

Merlin explains “chimney-effect” air flow and its key importance in providing cave-dwelling bats with cold roosts for hibernation and warm ones for rearing young.

Loss of essential roosts, especially those in caves, appears to be the most important cause of North American bat decline and endangerment. Millions of bats have been lost from single caves, initially due to saltpeter extraction for gun powder, and later when they were further altered for tourism. Some caves were even burned due to exaggerated fear of bats.

In recent decades, there have been numerous opportunities to recognize mistakes from the past as well as opportunities for the future. One way to address these issues is through cave management training.
Bat Survey Solutions held a workshop in San Marcos, Texas from May 7-9, where attendees were provided with examples of a variety of case histories and what they’ve taught us. 

Organized by America’s leading bat workshop trainers, John Chenger and Janet Tyburec, it was taught by Jim “Crash” Kennedy and me. Jim covered planning and implementing bat cave surveys and how to build gates to minimize predation and vandalism. I explained bat needs, how to recognize and quantify evidence of past use, how to restore altered roost temperatures, and how to manage entrance area vegetation for species-specific needs. We both emphasized the key importance of protecting and/or restoring caves or mines providing the best conditions, not necessarily the locations of greatest current use. Unfortunately, most of today’s remaining bats are living in homes of last resort, a key reason why they were declining, even before the threats of wind turbines, climate change and white-nose syndrome.

Jim Kennedy introducing workshop participants to a cave periodically occupied by cave myotis (Myotis velifer).

Outstanding protection and restoration opportunities for the future were explained, accompanied by case-history examples of dramatic population recoveries at properly protected and restored locations. Despite flooding rains, we were able to demonstrate a success story involving private landowner efforts to restore a cave myotis colony (top bat photo) in a local neighborhood. Workshop participants represented cave areas and concerns from coast to coast.

Check out Bat Survey Solutions upcoming events.

Merlin and Jim explaining conspicuous stains left behind by a former colony of cave myotis. This species has declined alarmingly throughout much of its range.