A $500 reward jointly offered by the American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA) and Bat Conservation International was instrumental in bringing about the conviction of four men responsible for killing several hundred bats in Kentucky's Thornhill Cave in January of this year (BATS, June 1987). Heaps of bats, which included 66 endangered Indiana Bats (Myotis ösodalis), were discovered on the cave floor, riddled with pellet holes or crushed. The last state census of the cave included 80 Indiana Bats, but only five survived the deliberate slaughter.
Initial inquiries into the incident by Fish and Wildlife investigators were unsuccessful. According to officials in charge of the investigation, there is no doubt that the reward led to the eventual conviction of the vandals. In late February, six days after an ACCA press release posted the reward, Fish and Wildlife Federal Agents and a Hardin County Conservation Officer interviewed an undisclosed informant. The information led to charges against four Kentucky men for killing the endangered bats. In August, the four were convicted in a Federal Court and fined $400 each, plus a six month jail sentence (probated), and 40 hours each toward restitution at a nearby wildlife habitat. Penalties for killing a federally protected species can include a fine of up to $20,000 for each occurrence.
Shortly after the incident occurred, the Louisville Grotto of the National Speleological Society initiated action to have a gate erected at Thornhill Cave to prevent further acts of vandalism. The Grotto now reports that, although the gate was installed, vandals have once again been at work. Glue was put into the lock, and the bars were sawed to gain entrance to the cave. The NSS has now posted a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Educating people on why such sites are important is essential if endangered populations are to survive.