With caves, what goes down must come up

MDC biologists survey bat, cave wildlife habitat

While most southeast Missourians endured temperatures of 21 degrees on Feb. 9, there was a place – still in Missouri – with a much warmer temperature of 58 degrees.

Healthy caves require clean water, so any improvements to water quality benefits caves and cave wildlife.

Bruce Henry, a natural history biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), enjoyed a balmy temperature of 58 degrees while caving in Perry County to monitor cave wildlife.

Henry and other MDC biologists visit caves in the winter to specifically check on the health of local bat populations while they hibernate, as well as survey for other cave dwelling wildlife.

“While many bats will disperse away from the cave during the breeding season, winter gives us a good indicator of their population status,” Henry said.

MDC biologists try to survey known groups of hibernating bats every winter. Bat populations throughout Missouri and eastern states have plummeted in recent years with the introduction of White-nose Syndrome, which is fatal to some, but not all bats.

“Our Missouri bats have suffered dramatic losses and we’re attempting to take actions that will conserve all we can,” Henry said.

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