Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby BobHoke » Dec 7, 2008 9:29 pm

I’m a member of the Management Committee for the John Guilday Caves Nature Preserve, which includes Trout Cave. I was involved in much of the planning and decision making for the Trout Cave gate. Ernie Coffman suggested that I try to clarify some of the points brought up recently about the gate.

1. The gate was installed to protect the cave’s small, but growing, population of endangered Indiana bats. I wrote a paper explaining the situation and it is available at
www.caves.org/grotto/dcg/bat-counts/why-gate-trout.pdf. The graph in the paper shows the dramatic population increase that prompted the decision to gate the cave.

2. The purpose of the gate is to provide peace and quiet for the bats, not to prevent vandalism. Actually, despite very heavy traffic, there has been very little graffiti or vandalism in Trout since the NSS purchased the cave and cleaned up most of the old graffiti in the 1980s.

3. The construction of the Trout gate was not related in any way to the WNS problem that is ongoing. The increase in the Indiana bat population was first seen in 2005, which is before the WNS situation was noticed.

4. The gate is located right at the drip line to make it hard for folks to camp in the entrance. Placing the gate further inside the cave would have been easier (and cheaper), but there have been multiple instances in the past where groups camped in the entrance. Having a campfire in the entrance would obviously not be good for the bats and the gate location essentially eliminates the entrance as a camping location.

6. The gate will be locked from Labor Day until May 15 (the normal period for winter closures in West Virginia). The gate will be locked open during the summer months and the cave will be open to unrestricted visitation.

7. Most of the funding for the gate came from the Federal and West Virginia governments, not from the NSS. The gating project was actually a pretty impressive cooperative project involving cavers and multiple government agencies.

I hope this helps clarify things.

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Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Ernie Coffman » Dec 7, 2008 9:36 pm

That was a great summary, Bob! Thanks much for letting all of us know why the gate was placed where it was placed. :woohoo:
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby adleedy » Dec 7, 2008 9:43 pm

yes, great job
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Andy » Dec 8, 2008 12:37 am

In summary, the number of Indiana bats has gone up over the last few years (Note: Trout is only counted during the odd numbered years). Here are the numbers:

1999: 19
2001: 24
2003: 25
2005: 95
2007: 158


Hmmm ... An increasing bat population is the reason to gate the cave? It looks like things were getting better without the gate. It seems to me the general feeling is a cave is worthy of gating if the bat population is increaseing or bat polulation is declining or the bat population is staying the same. Bats = Gate?
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby tncaver » Dec 8, 2008 5:23 am

Andy wrote:Hmmm ... An increasing bat population is the reason to gate the cave? It looks like things were getting better without the gate. It seems to me the general feeling is a cave is worthy of gating if the bat population is increaseing or bat polulation is declining or the bat population is staying the same. Bats = Gate?


It is obvious that the bat populations were increasing on their own without a gate which does make one wonder just
how necessary the gate was. It seems these days that endangered bats=gates. Key word here is indangered. At least
there is an access policy. Be glad for that.
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Dec 8, 2008 12:16 pm

tncaver wrote:
Andy wrote:
In summary, the number of Indiana bats has gone up over the last few years (Note: Trout is only counted during the odd numbered years). Here are the numbers:

1999: 19
2001: 24
2003: 25
2005: 95
2007: 158


Hmmm ... An increasing bat population is the reason to gate the cave? It looks like things were getting better without the gate. It seems to me the general feeling is a cave is worthy of gating if the bat population is increasing or bat population is declining or the bat population is staying the same. Bats = Gate?


It is obvious that the bat populations were increasing on their own without a gate which does make one wonder just
how necessary the gate was. It seems these days that endangered bats=gates. Key word here is endangered. At least
there is an access policy. Be glad for that.

A bat population CAN increase on it's own... provided that it's left well enough alone. But it will just as rapidly decrease or leave the roost entirely if disturbed too often too ... vigorously. Bats (as you may -- or may not) know are very sensitive creatures, they need quiet undisturbed periods of rest as part of their daily lives and definitely as part of their hibernation. People in general are stupid, gregarious and intrusive and just down right mean -- sometimes. Putting up a gate protects the colony already in place and the less they are disturbed the more they're encouraged to stay and continue breeding and thus the colony grows and so does proportionally the benefits to mankind in regards to insect control.
I don't have official numbers (yet I can get them) but the population of the Townsend Long Eared bats of Logan Cave was growing very nicely until those morons came in with their bottle-rockets and baseball bats and killed a large number (200+) of them. After the gate was installed the colony numbers increased and substantially... if I'm not mistaken, the count was up to 600 individuals which is quite large for this species of bat. But that was several years ago...what it is up to now I'm not sure, but I'll find out.
So a gate is of benefit to these important creatures.
As badly as mankind has treated them I think we owe it to them to help them maintain their survivability rate.

Don't you?
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Bob Thrun » Dec 8, 2008 7:15 pm

Brian Masney wrote:The entrance is located high in the cliff face and there is really only one way to get to the cave entrance. Personally, I feel that a 30' wide chain linked fence, with razor wire on the top, could have been placed further down the hill at the start of the climb to get to the cave. This would have restricted access during the winter and it would not have destroyed one of our beautiful cave entrances in West Virginia.

Brian

A chainlink fence was built near the Trout entrance shortly after the NSS bought the property. Someone went up to the fence with wirecutters or boltcutters and chopped the fence into 1-foot lengths of wire. You can find either fenceposts or postholes bored into solid rock. (I have not been there lately.)

Blocking the trail along the cliff face would not be sufficient. The trail was built to stop erosion on the steep hillside directly below the Trout and Hamilton entrances. People used to scramble directly up the slope.
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby tncaver » Dec 8, 2008 7:27 pm

Brian[/quote]
A chainlink fence was built near the Trout entrance shortly after the NSS bought the property. Someone went up to the fence with wirecutters or boltcutters and chopped the fence into 1-foot lengths of wire. You can find either fenceposts or postholes bored into solid rock. (I have not been there lately.) Blocking the trail along the cliff face would not be sufficient. The trail was built to stop erosion on the steep hillside directly below the Trout and Hamilton entrances. People used to scramble directly up the slope.[/quote]

Hmmm....one very hard rainfall event might do more damage than humans have done to the trail over several years.
For some reason I get the impression that "man" thinks he can outsmart mother nature. There are success stories,
however, the dominante force here is not man. Sometimes I think "man" simply outsmarts himself. Well, at least
the experts seem to. Time will tell. :gotdark:
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Bob Thrun » Dec 8, 2008 8:14 pm

tncaver wrote:Hmmm....one very hard rainfall event might do more damage than humans have done to the trail over several years.

I get the impression you have not seen the cave preserve. There is a cliff face at the top of the steep slope. The contact between cliff and slope is lowest on the southeast end of the contact. The trail was built along the contact. It rises much more gradually than the slope. The slope below the caves (Trout and Hamilton) were bare dirt. The slope is being revegated. without people skidding up and down it. Rain erosion is not a problem because there is zero catchment area above the top of the slope.
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby tncaver » Dec 9, 2008 5:20 am

[/quote]
I get the impression you have not seen the cave preserve.[/quote]

No. I have never been to Trout Cave. Perhaps some vegetation will improve the overall appearance
of the area. Although a lack of vegetation in a small area has never bothered me. For example: There
was never vegetation around the merry go round at school. That never bothered me. It made sense
that there shouldn't be vegetation there. I don't know that vegetation will improve the appearance of
the area as much as the gate takes away from the appearance. However, what's done is done. I hope
the bats multiply and I'm glad there is an access policy for cavers. That's multi use so to speak. :grin:
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Dwight Livingston » Dec 9, 2008 9:40 pm

tncaver wrote:Hmmm....one very hard rainfall event might do more damage than humans have done to the trail over several years.

tncaver wrote:Perhaps some vegetation will improve the overall appearance of the area. Although a lack of vegetation in a small area has never bothered me.


I can think of few things more studied and documented, as well as obvious to a casual observer, than the connection between vegetation and water erosion. If you doubt that, maybe try some reading. Here's a suggestion: http://books.google.com/books?id=3jXg9p ... lt#PPP1,M1
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby wyandottecaver » Dec 11, 2008 9:16 pm

Hopefully I'll make it to retirement from my 2 jobs. Then perhaps I'll take a more active role in NSS governance. Hopefully there will still be some members left and there will still be ungated caves by then. I like others, find it offensive that the NSS has pursued cave gating without a full discussion with the membership. Not even a peep in the News at least as I recall. It may well be that a gate at this location is warranted. But shouldn't the landowners (plural) who actually own the cave have been consulted?

If your just interested in the trout cave gate itself you can stop here. For an admitted long but thoughtful rant about why the whole idea of gating caves for bats is generally flawed biologically to begin with read on.


I was trained as a wildlife biologist and have worked professionally with bat hibernacula. The MYTH is that gating caves always protects bats. Gating caves does not magically change the laws of nature. There are only so many bats and they can only breed so fast and the surface environment in almost every case plays a far far greater role in their overall survival and abundance.

In rare locations where high population declines coincide with high visitation, gates may well be needed. Also in rare cases there may simply only be very few viable caves in a region (what constitutes viable is often hotly debated). What gating caves mostly does biologically is either nothing, or creates a concentration point whereby over time the scattered local bat populations that presumambly had resorted to "poor" areas of a cave or other "poor" caves to escape distubance now concentrate in the "good" gated and undisturbed cave. Large, rapid population increases are often simply local re-allocation of bats that were already there. Does providing these undisturbed hibernacula prevent some stress and direct injury bat deaths from human activity? Absolutely, but how many? And at what cost biologically? As more and more bats gather in fewer and fewer places the risks get higher and higher. The Wyandotte Cave area in Indiana is a prime example of how gating caves "for bats" created more bats in fewer caves with a mostly unchanged total population growth by region.

Concentrated populations WILL ALWAYS be vulnerable to disease or disaster. WNS has reminded everyone of that. EVERY concentrated population is prone to disease outbreaks, bats are no different in that than wildebeests. Moreover, by getting more and more bats into more and more "ideal" hibernacula conditions we keep lowering the bar on how fit or healthy a bat needs to be in order to make it through the winter. Thus come spring, you have more bats with worse overall fitness competing for dwindling food resources and mating opportunities. That means even fewer bats overall go into the next winter in their best possible condition and/or weaker members pass on those traits by breeding and thus all of them are more vulnerable to a long winter, or other stresses like WNS.For a while you might have more total bats, but as a population they are weaker and more vulnerable and thus the long term negative impacts for the survival of the population increase.

In the olden days you had these great caves stuffed with bats and lots of other caves with some bats...and a entire non-urbanized, non-pesticided, continent to feed from. Just because a cave used to have a million bats doesn't mean it should have a million bats today. While undisturbed, ideal hibernacula might be limited, suitable hibernacula sites are simply almost never a limiting factor. Also keep in mind that human disturbance of caves, particularly big, nice caves has been going on a LOOONG time. One might argue that while human disturbance of primary hibernacula is a negative impact at the individual level, moderate levels of disturbance might have biological benefits at the population level long term.

The simple fact is that in many cases (not all) gating caves for "bat protection" is usually driven by 1) a money making venture by gate builders using funds from State or Federal sources (see 2) 2) A State or Federal agency that has legal obligations and/or an agenda to pursue every whimsical scheme dreamed up that might benefit some bat, somewhere, somehow, sometime and uses your tax money to do it. 3) a means by which land managers can eliminate or simplify burdensome ongoing access issues or perceived liability by eliminating or severely restricting access by people to caves "for the bats".

Left largely unmentioned are the primary causes of most declines which include loss of surface habitat, loss of food density, and direct killers like cars, windmills, and environmental toxins.
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby tncaver » Dec 11, 2008 9:26 pm

Very interesting ideology wyandottecaver.
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Re: Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Dec 12, 2008 11:03 am

Wyandottecaver, your ideas are very good indeed and does cause one to stop and think.

Yet doesn't gating the cave re-create in a sense the un-disturbed, un-molested conditions bats had before man showed up? Before man only natural predators were the danger to these animals, snakes, members of the weasel family, members of the cat family, and so on? Unlike man these predators only took what they needed to eat/survive.

I still trust Nature and her remarkable way of ensuring the natural order of things. WNS may be nature's way of weeding out a specific population due to some genetic defect that would've affected the entire species population and thus rendered it extinct... or WNS might've been caused by human origins bringing in a fungus that the animals' immune system wasn't set up for. We don't know.

But far as I can see the gates that are there for the protection of the bat colonies are put up to protect against unnatural causes of deaths. Bottle rockets and baseball bats, .22 rifle shells, bb/pellet guns, rocks, brooms, poison spray, pipe lengths and a whole host of other methods coupled with just plain overall ignorance and downright meanness. Until we can figure out a way to prevent morons, idiots, and jerks from going in and performing mass killings of colonies then gates are going to have to be the way to go.
Remember, that nearly all of recent animal extinction levels have been because of man... in one way or another.
I think that we owe it to nature to help her protect the some of the indigenous earth life forms from us any way we can, until a means to stop ignorant actions from occurring.
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Photo of the new gate at the NSS owned Trout Cave

Postby Ernie Coffman » Dec 12, 2008 12:54 pm

:clap: Woo hoo for you Ralph, baby! :clap: You wrote a mouthful. You forgot shotgun, though, for that really does a number on a large group of bats hanging there. :doh: We've seen what it can do and it's too bad they didn't richot back and hit the dude, idiot, moron, jerk, or farthead! Keep up the good work...and :cave softly:
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