The Northern Region of the Forest Service has been working with the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto and several other agencies to develop educational signs about bats and White Nose Syndrome. Two large signs were created and recently installed on the exterior of two of the Region’s most visited caves. Smaller signs will be placed inside of the more sensitive caves along with new cave registers. During International Bat Week (Oct. 25-31) the Grotto installed several of the small signs in caves on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
“Our goal is to educate others about White Nose Syndrome and bat conservation and provide decontamination information to help reduce the human caused spread of White Nose Syndrome, said Forest Service Biologist Amie Shovlain. “Bats are our most important natural predators of night-flying insects, consuming mosquitoes and, moths, among others.” “Many of these insects are serious agricultural or forests pests. Every year, bats save us billions of dollars in pest control simply by eating insects.”
“The signs highlight how important it is to practice clean caving. While bats are the impetus for the clean caving push, they aren't the only reason. The underground is a delicate and fragile place, and it is unknown what other microorganisms’ humans could be spreading. The fungus responsible for White Nose Syndrome is the scariest one we know about right now,” commented Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto President Ian Chechet.
“The signs will help explorers to understand how important it is to “Leave No Trace” of their visit. Many caves across the state have garbage left behind by previous explorers. Most visitors are unaware of the impacts, so these signs are a reminder to cave visitors that caves are a delicate place that can be easily and permanently damaged. One false move and a 50,000 year old formation could be gone forever. A single muddy handprint may last for 5,000 years underground.”
The registers have a White Nose Syndrome and conservation message inside to further get the word out. They also will help to determine the amount of usage these caves are getting in order to manage them.
Cavers have a special affinity for bats; they are the only animals that visit the same dark depths that humans do. Across the country, and especially here in Montana, caving groups and several land management agencies are working to gather as much data as possible to be ready if White Nose Syndrome spreads to Montana.
To find out more about Bats and how to save them, go online to: http://www.batcon.org, or http://batslive.pwnet.org. To get involved with Bat conservation, contact the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto at http://nrmg.org.