TPWD Cutting Back Access To Bat-Viewing, Cave-Visiting

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is closing some of the state's caves and prime bat-viewing sites to fight a contagious disease that's fatal to bats.

White Nose Syndrome has spread from the East Coast, and the sites are being closed "our of an abundance of caution, said David Riskind, director of natural resources for TPWD.

Bats who catch WNS wake up too early from hibernation and haven't stored enough fat to get through the winter.

Gorman Cave at Colorado Bend State Park is now closed. The public can no longer enter Stuart Bat Cave at Kickapoo Caverns, the Devil's Sinkhole near Rocksprings and the caves at Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area, but they can still view batflights in those locations.

Operations at Longhorn Caverns will not be affected.

Little is known about WNS, but some think it can be carried via clothing or backpacks, TPWD mammologist John Young said. Since it was found in a New York state cave three years ago, more than a million bats have died from it. The fungus has been confirmed in Oklahoma, but has yet to be seen in Texas.

"We know we can limit the potential for people accidentally transporting the fungus by limiting or restricting access to caves," Young said. "Bats eat millions of insect pests. We can't even begin to estimate the impact that a massive loss of bat species would have on crops, the Texas economy and our environment."

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