Bats in the Park
Photo copyright T. Krynak.
Seven species of bats are found in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: big brown bat, tri-colored bat, hoary bat, Indiana bat ( a federally endangered species), little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, and red bat.
Bats reside in caves and barns throughout the park and can be seen during evening ranger-led hikes throughout the year. Ice Box Cave, in the Ritches Ledges, was a popular stop for visitors. Unfortunately, the cave is now closed until further notice, in order to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease of cave-hibernating bats caused by a fungus, Geomyces destructans.
After being discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, WNS has spread to 21 additional states and five Canadian Provinces devastating the populations of bats in its path. Biologists from Metro Parks, Serving Summit County detected WNS at the Liberty Park Reservation in Twinsburg, when they discovered a dead little brown bat outside one of the park's off-trail caves in January 2012. WNS was confirmed in the specimen by researchers at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia.
Field signs of WNS can include visible white fungal growth on the bat's muzzle and/or wing tissue. Infected bats also often display abnormal behaviors in their hibernation sites, such as movement toward the mouth of caves and daytime flights during winter. These abnormal behaviors may contribute to the untimely consumption of stored fat reserves causing emaciation, a characteristic documented in a portion of the bats that die from WNS.
Photo by Nancy Heaslip NY Dept of Environmental Conservation.
You Can Help
Park visitors can help slow the spread of this disease and reduce disturbance to bats by respecting cave closures and reporting any unusual bat activity to our Communications Center at 440-546-5945.
Visit the NPS White-nose syndrome website to learn more. You can find fact sheets, maps, a video series, and links to other WNS websites.