Bats in the Cuyahoga Valley spend time in rock crevices, in barns and other strucures, and even under tree bark. They can be spotted emerging from their roosts around dusk on summer evenings. Nine bat species have been documented in the park:
Big brown bat
Indiana bat (a federally endangered species)
Little brown bat
Northern long-eared bat
Eastern small-footed bat
Ice Box Cave, at the Ledges, used to be a popular stop for visitors. The cave is now closed until further notice, in order to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease that affects cave-hibernating bats.
After being discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, WNS has spread to dozens of other states and Canadian provinces, devastating the populations of bats in its path. Biologists from Summit Metro Parks 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.
You Can Help
WNS is spread by bat-to-bat transmission and by humans transporting fungal spores on their shoes, clothes, and other gear from contaminated sites to new sites. WNS does not affect human health, in part because the fungus requires temperatures cooler than the human body to survive.
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.