Protecting Bats in Parks

bat hibernates in cave
Hibernating little brown bat in a cave in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

P. Cryan

The National Park Service (NPS) has a strong commitment to protect bats and their habitats. Part of our mission is to preserve natural resources (including wildlife like bats) for the enjoyment of future generations. Park staff look for ways to manage bat populations in the face of several threats like habitat loss and white-nose syndrome.
Depending on the specific issues at a park, wildlife managers use a number of strategies to keep bats healthy and their habitats safe.
Cave closures – Many caves in national parks are closed to visitors to protect the cultural and natural resources within the caves, as directed by federal laws. Be sure to check with the park you're visiting for information about open caves and how to safely enjoy them. Sometimes managers need to close caves either year-round or seasonally to protect bats or other sensitive organisms in the cave. Human activity in caves can disturb bats during hibernation, causing them to use up the energy they need to survive winter. Female bats with young are also easily disturbed and may leave their pups to fend for themselves. Cave regulations help reduce disturbance and decrease the risk of humans accidentally spreading WNS by moving the fungus on gear or clothing between caves.
Research and monitoring programs – Park staff and research partners use a variety of methods, such as mist netting, field surveys, emergence counts, and acoustic surveys to learn more about bats and where they live in parks. This information helps wildlife managers make science-based decisions for bat management and stewardship activities, like protecting important bat habitat and improving survival and health of bats in parks. Learn more about Studying Bats in National Parks.
Cooperation with other agencies – Representatives from the NPS regularly collaborate with employees from other state and federal agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations. This cooperation helps protect bats beyond park boundaries because bat habitat and migration routes extend beyond the NPS. For example, NPS staff are actively involved in the national response to WNS.
Bat-friendly cave and mine entrances – Several parks have installed bat gates or bat cupolas on cave and abandoned mine entrances. For example, the Skidoo Mine in Death Valley National Park has a bat cupola, and in 2015 New River Gorge National River installed gates into 11 abandoned coal mines. These coverings are designed specifically to allow bats to enter but to keep larger mammals (like humans!) out. This gallery has photos of bat gates and cupolas across the NPS.
Outreach and education – Each year nearly 300 million visitors come to explore nature and learn about the fascinating wildlife, cultural stories, unique geologic features, and other natural resources in national parks. Through interpretive programs, informational displays, and special events, parks help to spread the word about the importance of bats and what we all can do to help protect them and their habitats.
Preventing spread and impacts of white-nose syndrome – Since WNS was first discovered in 2006, the disease has killed millions of bats and continues to spread across North America. The NPS has acted to help slow the spread and protect bats by regulating access to caves and mines, cleaning or restricting use of clothing and gear between caves, and funding more than 158 projects in 78 parks, since 2013. These projects help NPS staff learn more about bats in parks and educate visitors both about the benefits of bats and what NPS is doing (and they can do, too!) to support bat conservation.
Learn more about what you can do in your area to help protect bats.

Last updated: October 23, 2023


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