Bohemian Flats Cave
Hello, friendly passerby!
The gate in front of the Bohemian flats cave was welded shut to protect a small colony of hibernating bats. These bats are susceptible to an extremely fatal fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, which has been reported to wipe out as much as 90% of affected bat species.
What is white-nose syndrome?
White-nose syndrome is a disease caused by a fungus which thrives in the same cool, damp habitats many bats hibernate in. The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), infiltrates (?) bat’s skin– and slowly starves the bat to death. Some bats with later-stage WNS wake more frequently during hibernation– flying out on a cold winter day to look for food and further draining their resources. For this reason, hibernating bats in cooler climates are more extremely affected by WNS than bats living in warmer climates.
Bats play an integral role in our ecosystems. Efficient pest-eaters, bats could account for up to $3.7 billion in agricultural costs– and they offer these services for free. The bats that hibernate here, tri-colored bats, can catch an insect every two seconds during feeding hours. If WNS continues to devastate bat colonies, our food systems may be in trouble. And since bats are extremely slow to reproduce– many only raising one to two “pups” yearly– it would take a long time for reduced bat populations to recover.
Photo caption: A researcher swabs a tri-colored bat to test for white-nose syndrome in the bohemian flats cave. Tri-colored bats are Minnesota’s smallest bat species. At around three inches and weighing the size of a quarter, these adorable mini-bats must be protected at all costs.