Reseachers are moving forward with a plan to build an artificial bat-cave near Clarksville this spring. The experimental project hopes to save hibernating bats from an invasive fungus that has killed millions in New England over the last few years.
For bats, a man-made cave could be a place to stay over winter without flapping into a lion’s den of deadly fungus. And for researchers it would also be a controlled environment for closer study.
The Nature Conservancy’s Cory Holliday says building such a cave will cost more than $300 thousand. The money’s not all there yet, but Holliday says they can’t afford to wait any longer:
“We’d be hard-pressed to bring a population back. Bats reproduce very slowly, produce one offspring a year, and are just really, really difficult to bring back after a mortality event.”
As of this spring, Holliday says hundreds of bats are missing from a couple of caves in East Tennessee, but far bigger colonies in the state still seem okay, for now.
Holliday says the artificial cave will be big enough to hold tens of thousands of bats, but the project will start small: he hopes more than one thousand will call it home this winter.
Extra: Holliday says while bats are slow to repopulate, they’re long-lived; many bats found in Tennessee can live around 20 years.