Volunteers joined Kentucky state agencies this month to build bat-friendly gates designed to keep vandals from repeating their deadly attacks on the endangered Indiana myotis that hibernate in Kentucky’s Laurel Cave, The Independent reports.
The Ashland, Kentucky, newspaper said the new gates, which will keep people out of the hibernation area while allowing the bats to come and go at will, was a direct response to the killing of at least 100 Indiana myotis during two incidents last October.
The vandals “just wantonly killed the bats,” knocking them off their roosts, stomping them on the cave floor and crushing them with rocks, Bat Conservation International Cave Resources Coordinator Jim Kennedy told the newspaper.
A $5,000 reward, which BCI initiated, produced no information – “not a single tip on who those culprits were,” he said. Plenty of signs warn that the cave, part of Carter Caves State Resort Park, is closed during the bats’ winter hibernation period, wrote Independent reporter Tim Preston. The signs were ignored, Kennedy said, so “we’ve got to go to stronger measures.”
Those measures turned out to be extremely labor intensive. Park Naturalist Coy Ainsley said steel components had to be carried to the entrance of the cave, where each was cut to size. Then, the newspaper said, volunteers hauled those “heavy hunks of steel through twisting cave corridors … to the proper location,” where they were welded into place. “It takes two to four people per piece to carry some of these things,” Ainsley said.
The gates being installed in Laurel Cave will be locked the day after Labor Day, then unlocked on May 1, after the bats are gone, so properly permitted cavers can explore Laurel Cave.
The gate-installation project involved Bat Conservation International, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky Department of Parks and the American Cave Conservation Association.