Some Buffalo River Caves Are Closed To Protect Bats

Free Weekly Staff

There are hundreds of caves in Arkansas and the Ozark region. Caves arguably have a fairly constant temperature and some spelunkers like

to explore in winter. As of last October, many of the caves

in Buffalo River National Park were temporarily closed as a precaution to help stop the spread of the Geomyces sp. fungus. The fungus is the suspected cause of white-nose syndrome in bats. WNS was detected in 2006 in caves on the East Coast and since that time has killed approximately a million bats. According to Chuck Bitting, geologist with the Buffalo National River, WNS has not shown up in Arkansas yet. However because Arkansas is well known for its caves, cavers from the Eastern U.S. come here for the caving experience. It is thought that cavers could carry the fungus as spores through their clothing

and equipment. All of the BNR caves are

closed except for: The caves in Lost Valley from

Eden Falls Cave to the Lost Valley Campground parking area, Eden Falls Cave, Lost Valley Natural Bridge, Cob Cave and Natural Bridge Cave.

The caves along the trail system at Buffalo Point, Indian Rockhouse Cave, Indian Rockhouse Sink, Panther Cave, Twenty-Nine and a Half Cave,

Forest Trail Pit, Overlook(ed)

Cave, Bullet Cave and Sinkhole Icebox. However the Bat Cave is closed.

Back O’ Beyond Cave and Silver Hill Cave are open only for NPS guided interpretive tours.

BNR is one of the most caverich units of the National Park System with over 360 docu-

mented caves. The caves of Buffalo National River contain three species of bat on the Federal

Endangered Species List, as well

as four bat species, which are not listed. In addition to the bat species, the caves are home to a complex ecosystem containing wood rats, salamanders, frogs, insects, spiders,

and other arthropods. Bat guano is

often considered the base of the food chain for these ecosystems, and the loss of bats to White Nose Syndrome could cause the extinction of several species only found in the

Buffalo River area.

Categories: Features