Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bat Heaven

Click image for detail

I didn't think I'd be posting again so soon on bats, but this is a really neat cave I was in yesterday and the day before. It's in Monroe County, Alabama on a 4,000 acre private tract for which I'm doing the conservation easement baseline documentation. The owner casually mentioned there was a cave there, and upon investigation I was pleasantly surprised by its character and contents. I can find no documentation of it (although NSS has another one recorded from elsewhere on the same property), and I suspect it's "new to science," as they say. Local lore says it was once a hiding place for both Indians and Confederate soldiers, and that it contains a lost cache of gold coins guarded by rattlesnakes "as big around as your neck," but no evidence of any of these was seen. The bats visible on the ceiling appear to be Myotis austroriparius, and this is likely a maternity cave for the species. Eric Spadgenske and I conservatively estimated 2,000 animals, but that could be off significantly. I went back in yesterday to get this photo, catching the light as it was reflecting off the small stream to the ceiling. Although bats and caves are often associated with the dark underworld, a friend I shared this with said it looked like "bat heaven," and I have to agree!

As for the lost gold, next time I'm bringing one of these gadgets...

And one final note: I love palindromes. I actually own this book. My daughter is named AVA (and was born in 2002). Well, last time I failed to talk about entering a cave with Eric (mentioned above) and Eva Kristofik (also of USFWS), but you see them briefly in the video. How on earth I failed to remember my all-time favorite at that particular moment I'll never know. But here it is:


It would have been so cool if I'd said it at the time, pocketknife in hand, poised menacingly over a bat. See, I would actually be asking a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent named Eva about the legality of stabbing bats right there on the cave wall. Not that I'd ever have done it, of course. But I missed that opportunity and I fear it will never again come up again in regular conversation without seeming somehow contrived. Oh well.