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   The Hollow Earth News (HEN) is the official monthly newsletter of the WSS. Care to submit something to The Hollow Earth News newsletter?  Trip reports, pictures, articles or anything caving related is welcome. Send your submissions to Karen Fiske, the HEN editor's address via mail or email, please click-  Karen Fiske , here is are samples of our Hollow Earth News 3/2012 and Hollow Earth News 4/2012.

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Under the Shenandoah Mountains, a caving adventure

posted May 15, 2019, 7:13 PM by Al Schema   [ updated May 15, 2019, 7:14 PM ]

by John Briley, Washington Post News Service, Updated: May 10, 2019

Under the Shenandoah Mountains, a caving adventure

In the moist, elemental rind of the Earth, the balance shifts. I am on my belly, twisting through a subterranean, mud-slicked limestone passage in West Virginia, and am for the first time legitimately trying to keep up with my 10-year-old son, Kai.

I’m here with him, his friends Curtis and Finn, and a guide in late March, exploring one of this state’s 5,000 known caves, most of which (like this one) have no parking lot, interior lighting, gift shop, or even signs.

Guide Lester Zook, center, chose this cave in Franklin, W. Va., for its kid-friendly passages.

JOHN BRILEY / WASHINGTON POST NEWS SERVICE                                                                                Guide Lester Zook, center, chose this cave in Franklin, W. Va., for its kid-friendly passages.

In fact, our guide, Lester Zook, agreed to take us in this cave on the condition that I reveal neither its name nor its precise location. So: We’re somewhere outside the one-stoplight town of Franklin, about an hour mostly west of Harrisonburg, Va., above a bucolic valley west of the Shenandoah Mountains where hills choked with oak and hickory trees rise and fall like banjo rolls.

“When you move in a cave, do so slowly,” Zook says as we stand in sunshine beneath a rock wall, pondering the pumpkin-size hole at our feet — our portal to adventure. “There’s seldom a reason to be in a hurry.”

Zook, 58, is a wiry 5-foot-6, an ideal build for crawling around underground. He wears well-worn blue coveralls with integrated knee and elbow pads, and hiking shoes. As he instructed when I phoned, we're dressed for mud and for the near-constant 52-degree Fahrenheit air of this cave.

Zook views backcountry activity as an antidote to the smother of safety and structure that children face in the modern world. "The outdoors is basically a giant gymnasium," he says. "And it's different than traditional sports. There's no coach, no screaming audience, no humiliation or bench time. The kids can just be themselves."

With, of course, a few rules.

He leads us through a safety briefing, checks our helmets and headlamps, ensures that everyone has a whistle, and asks the boys how they think people find their way through cave systems.

Yes, Zook confirms, some mark walls with spray paint, but that's bad eco-juju and, in many places, illegal. No, people don't leave trails of crumbs. As for those who rely on their memories, Zook says, "We have a word for them: lost."

He then pulls out his favored method — a map and a compass — and gives a brief primer on how to use them before dropping to hands and knees and leading us underground.

The hole opens to a descending crevice and we climb down 15 feet of puddle-laden ledges until we reach a relatively level path where we can touch the walls on both sides.

After a few twists and turns, this alleyway opens to a dome the size of a large dining room. We’re in a rock world. On one side, the ages have stacked multi-ton slabs of limestone like hastily shuffled playing cards. Shadows dance across the walls, ceiling, floors, and geologic clutter, which runs the gamut of brown — russet, sand, walnut, tan, chocolate, khaki.

Water drips from stalactites that finger down from the ceiling, the smallest of which are known as soda straws, with each drop leaving behind a residue of calcite that further extends the formation. In many places, the calcite is fashioning stalagmites on the floor, glossy nubs that appear translucent white in the center. Some of these have bubbled together into flowstones, alluringly smooth formations that resemble miniature caramel mountain ranges.

We sit and switch off our lights. Total darkness. As in, can’t-see-your-hand-an-inch-from-your-face dark. “I can’t see anything!” Finn says in what I hope is more amazement than terror.

Total darkness is one of the factors that makes a cave a cave, versus, say, a hole; to earn the label, caves (or caverns; there's no difference) must also have formed naturally and be big enough to hold a person.

I’m enjoying the complete shutdown of one of my senses and wondering what it would be like to try to find my way out of here blind when Zook turns his headlamp back on.

He assigns Kai and Curtis to Navigation Team A and helps them orient to generate a hypothesis. "We think there's a passage around that corner," Curtis says, pointing toward a shadow. Sure enough, the route squeezes through a notch before widening into a room decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, including some in an upper corner that have grown together in three-foot floor-to-ceiling columns.

Around the next bend, Zook points out a hibernating brown bat, about the size and cuteness of a mouse, dangling as though its feet were super-glued to the underside of a ledge. We see few other signs of animal life, just three spiders and a small pile of bones, including what appear to be the vertebrae of a sizable mammal.

"No clue," Zook says when I ask the species. "Maybe some bear fell in here and couldn't find his way out."

Of all the emergencies I imagined — claustrophobia, ankle sprain, boys sprinting off with compass and map — I never considered that we might stumble upon a predator. But Zook says such a confrontation is highly unlikely. “Mammals don’t wander too far underground,” he says, although he’s heard of cavers encountering groundhogs and coyotes.

Zook appoints Finn and Kai to Navigation Team B and, in what an astute student would take as a harbinger, counsels us on how to negotiate extremely tight spaces.

“If you feel like you’re getting stuck or claustrophobic, focus on breathing. Next, work on micro-movements; often, you’ll find you can move one body part a little, then another. Don’t fight the cave: You’ll only make things worse.” Never pull or push people in a tight spot, he says, which might get them entrapped.

We face two crawls where I have to back out a few times and reorient my helmet-shoulder-torso alignment to shimmy through. But none is what cavers call chest compressors — spaces so tight one must fully exhale to make it through — and they all open to larger spaces quickly enough that I don’t freak out.

Our last stop is the Art Museum, a loftlike nook where visitors have plastered the walls with mud sculptures — a cartoonish skull, an impressive rendition of the James Madison University “Duke Dog” mascot, and other 21st-century references that detract, ever so slightly, from the ancient vibe down here.

Kai and I get the final Nav Team assignment — steering us back to daylight. After we plot out the necessary turns, I promptly lead us into a cul-de-sac, proving that, left to my own skills in a more labyrinthine cavern, I’d be dead.

My son jumps past me. “Dad, let me go in front.” He darts around one last corner and climbs toward a keyhole of sunlight without looking back.

Wild Guyde Adventures, Harrisonburg, Va., offers half- to full-day trips near Harrisonburg and in West Virginia to Franklin and Seneca Rocks, ranging from mostly horizontal beginner routes to ones that require climbing. Information: 540-433-1637 or wildguyde.com

General Information: wvtourism.com

Posted: May 10, 2019 - 12:01 AM
John Briley, Washington Post News Service

Announcing the 54th Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival September 7-9, 2018

posted Aug 27, 2018, 8:10 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Aug 27, 2018, 8:16 AM ]

Announcing the 54th Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival

September 7-9, 2018


   We are happy to announce the 54th annual Wisconsin Speleological Society (WSS) Hodag Hunt Festival is scheduled and we are set for yet another fun and adventurous caving celebration weekend. This year’s event will be held at Yellowstone Lake State Park in southwest Wisconsin. This area of the state is in the glacial driftless area, so hills and valleys abound with scenic driving views around every corner. Keeping with the tradition of trying something new, this is the first time a WSS Hodag Hunt Festival has ever been held at Yellowstone Lake State Park.

   Yellowstone Lake State Park is a 1,000-acre park, and has a 455-acre lake, which offers visitors ample space to enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, biking and picnicking. More information can be found about Yellowstone Lake State Park at their official website (https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/yellowstone/).

   The Yellowstone Lake State Park site was chosen because of its proximity to Cave of the Mounds and other local attractions. Cave of the Mounds happens to be one of the most spectacular Show Caves in the Midwest and is also officially and appropriately recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Government. We are happy to announce we have arranged for a large discount tour rate ($10 cash per person) for registered Hodag attendees at Cave of the Mounds and our picnic supper and WSS auction will be in the historic Brigham Barn on the Cave of the Mounds property. More information and driving directions to Cave of the Mounds can be found on their official website at (http://www.caveofthemounds.com).

    The WSS Hodag Hunt Festival is a yearly weekend caving jubilee for cavers from Wisconsin and the surrounding states. It is a great time to get together for exploring caves during the day, later reconnecting and relaxing with fellow cavers, and above all, having lots of social fun and camaraderie. You do not have to be a WSS member or be affiliated with any other caving grotto to attend. Everyone is welcome! We do encourage new attendees to join the WSS if they are interested.

   At a minimum for caving equipment needs, a protective hard helmet and hands-free lights of some sort are a must. Hiking boots, protective clothing, and knee pads are highly recommended for any of the Hodag caving trips. You will want to bring a camera, too, as there will be spectacular photo opportunities and memorable moments that you will want to capture for a lifetime during the whole weekend of the 54th Hodag Hunt Festival celebration.

   Please note we do have two very important equipment requirements for everyone who is going into the caves during the Hodag Hunt: 1) Everyone needs to have clean caving equipment to protect against the spread of the devastating White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). See the WSS website information at (http://www.wisconsincaves.org/WNS) for the latest updates on WNS. The link also provides the latest decontamination protocols from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for your caving gear; and 2) No one may use caving equipment and clothing in Wisconsin caves that has been in caves outside of Wisconsin per Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regulations. A decontamination station will be provided by the WSS for the outing to keep your equipment clean.

   Hodag Fun: The WSS uses the Hodag Hunt Festival weekend as a caving social gathering and uses the funds raised at the Hodag auction to support its various caving activities throughout the year. Please do bring items for the auction and some extra money for the great buys and interesting finds you will see at the auction. The weekend will be full of great wild caving trips to some of the more popular undeveloped caves in the area. Cave of the Mounds is just one of the commercial caves you could take in for the weekend. Other Show Caves in Iowa are also an easy driving distance away.

   Camping: Camping this year for the WSS Hodag Festival is at Yellowstone Lake State Park. The park provides a panoramic view of 455-acre Yellowstone Lake. Park features include 112 camping sites that vary from single tent, group, to large camper with electric and water individual sites. Park amenities include full shower facilities, toilet bathrooms, a playground area, beach swimming access, hiking trails, and a comfort station. Yellowstone Lake State Park is a Wisconsin State Park, so Wisconsin Park admission stickers are REQUIRED on all vehicles using the park and must be properly attached. Information on State Park stickers and their costs can be found at (https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/admission.html). Park stickers can be purchased upon your arrival at the park.

   Group Site Camping: The WSS has reserved a large group site for tent camping at Yellowstone Lake State Park, site #201, for those who will be camping in tents. Site #201 does have electricity and a fire pit for nightly get togethers. A bathroom facility is right next door. The shower building and a large playground area are a short walking distance from the site. There is also an ample supply of parking next to group site #201 for all vehicles. Parking or driving on the grass is prohibited. This year there is not a separate fee for camping in the group site #201 for Hodag registered attendees. Camping fees are covered by your Hodag registration. Folks arriving to Yellowstone Lake State Park, who plan on staying at group site #201, need to check in at the Ranger Station to announce where they will be staying to get a camping pass for their vehicle. With a Wisconsin State Park sticker for your vehicle, you are then free to enter the park for your weekend stay.

   Individual Campsites: There is an abundance of individual campsites available in the park. Folks with large or small campers, or even a person with a tent that wants more privacy, can pick between having full, just partial hookups, or no hookups for their camp sites. Expenditures for individual sites are not covered by your Hodag registration. Reservations for sites can be made in advance by visiting the Park’s official website (https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/yellowstone/).

   Firewood: Bringing you own firewood is not allowed at Wisconsin State Parks from more than 10 miles away from the destination campground, unless it is certified by WI DATCP. The Friends of Yellowstone Lake State Park sell firewood at the park office for $5 a bundle. The proceeds go right back into the park to provide educational programs for visitors.

   Meals: You are on your own for breakfast, lunch, and Friday night dinner. A short 10-minute drive from the Park will get you to historic Blanchardville. Five restaurants in town give a large selection on breakfast, lunch, and dinner possibilities. Great food selections can be found at: Lady Dawn’s, Viking Cafe, The Pecatonica Grapevine, Dawn’s Place, and the Gnarly Oak Restaurant and Bar. The Viking Café is locally known for its great Viking breakfast skillets, so don’t miss out on a great breakfast. The WSS Hodag supper will be served Saturday evening. It is an all-you-can-eat picnic-style meal of brats, hotdogs, burgers, coleslaw, potato salad, and other typical picnic favorites and will be served in the renovated Brigham Barn right at the Cave of the Mounds.

   Hodag Wild Caving Trips: Saturday trips will be offered from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Sign-up sheets will be available after Saturday breakfast. A 9:30 welcome and trip briefing on Saturday is required for everyone to attend, if you are participating in any planned WSS trip activities. For caving trips, everyone needs to be aware of White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocol in order to participate. Decontamination info will be provided at Registration and in the Hodag Festival Guidebook.

   Alternative Caving Activities: There will be plenty of alternative activities other than caving. A 50-minute drive to Madison will give you access to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Wisconsin State Capital, Memorial Union Terrace at the University of Wisconsin, the Henry Vilas Zoo and countless museums, restaurants, parks, and lakes. A 30-minute drive will take you to scenic and historic Mount Horeb. Their attractions include Little Norway, Bothan Vineyards, Fisher King Winery, Deer Valley Lodge & Golf Couse, the Grumpy Troll Microbrewery Pub, Havens Petting Farm, and so much more. An even shorter 10-minute drive from the Park will get you to Squeaky Wheel Saloon - Hollandale, Nick Engelbert’s Grandview - Hollandale, Pec Time River Rafting and Tubing Inc - Argyle, New Glarus Brewing Company - New Glarus, (home of the Spotted Cow), Toy Train Barn - Argyle, and the Swiss Historical Village - New Glarus.

   Cost: Pre-Registration is $10 per person. On-site registration is $11 per person. There is no registration charge for children 15 and under. Brats, hotdogs, burgers, and all-you-can-eat picnic style fixin’s is $6 for adults, $3 for children 2-12, no charge for children under 2. See separate registration form for more specific cost breakdowns.

   Driving Directions: To get there from Madison, head west on U.S. Highway 18/151 toward Dodgeville. Take the State Highway 78 South exit at Mount Horeb and head south on 78 to Blanchardville (Highway 78 will also become County Highway F). After passing through downtown Blanchardville on 78/F, turn right on County Highway F at the T-intersection where County F and Highway 78 split - there will be a road sign directing you toward the park (don't turn right at your first opportunity to take county F on the north side of Blanchardville prior to the downtown area). Continue following F for about 8 miles to Lake Road. Turn left (east) onto Lake Road (look for the large unlit park sign). The park office is about 1 mile east of County F on Lake Road on the right side. GPS coordinates to the park: (Latitude) 42.76944, -89.97083 (Longitude) 42°46'10"N, 89°58'15"W.


   Schedule at a glance:  

Ø  Friday Main Arrival/Setup: Feel free to arrive any time after 3:00 pm on Friday to set up your campsite for the weekend and take in the great amenities of Yellowstone Lake State Park and the surrounding area.

Ø  Friday Registration: Registration starts at 7:00 in evening in the Yellowstone Lake State Park at the group campsite.

Ø  Friday Lunch & Dinner: Cavers are on their own for Friday meals.

Ø  Saturday Breakfast: Cavers are on their own for breakfast. Great breakfast selections can be had at nearby Blanchardville WI. Most restaurants in town open at 7:00 am.

Ø  WSS Welcome and Activity Briefing: Quick orientation and information meeting at 9:30 is mandatory for all day-trip participants. Maps for local attractions will be available and signup sheets for caving.

Ø  Saturday Caving: Hodag trip activities start at 10:00. Everyone should be back from their daily trips no later than 4:30 to get ready for the Saturday evening activities.

Ø  Saturday Lunch: Cavers are on their own for lunch on Saturday.

Ø  Saturday Tour of Cave of the Mounds: 5:30 - 6:30. Interested persons register for tour at the Gift Shop.

Fee: $10 cash. Credit card users will be charged full tour rates of $18.95.

Ø  Saturday Meal: The Saturday supper will be all you can eat brats, hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, coleslaw, chips, and beverages. Serving time is from 6:30 - 7:30 in the renovated Brigham Barn on the Cave of the Mounds grounds.

Ø  Saturday WSS Auction: The WSS auction fund raiser will start around 8:00 in the Brigham Barn, after the Saturday meal. Door prizes will also be given out during the auction.

Ø  Sunday Breakfast: Cavers are on their own for breakfast. Great breakfast selections can be had at nearby Blanchardville. Most restaurants in town open at 7:00 am.

Ø  Sunday WSS Board/General Meeting:  A combined WSS General and Board Meeting will be held from 9:00 - 10:00 Sunday morning at the group campsite. All are welcome to attend.

Ø  Sunday Caving: There will be limited trips offered on Sunday. Caving activities start at 10:00 and should have everyone back to Yellowstone Lake State Park no later than 2:30. All campsites need to be vacated by 3:00,ending the WSS 54th annual Hodag Hunt Festival activities.


For more information contact Kasey Fiske (kasey.fiske@wisc.edu) or Karen Fiske (7fiskes@gmail.com) or 608-370-4883.

NSS calls on U.S. Government to Change Cave Closure Policies on WNS

posted Apr 26, 2018, 6:47 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Apr 26, 2018, 6:53 AM ]

Recommendations from NSS Chair of the Directorate Peter Youngbaer

The NSS' letter to Secretaries Zinke and Perdue will have more impact if the Secretaries also hear from Senators and Representatives that they would like to see them address the WNS cave closure policies. If you, as NSS members, contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to contact the Secretaries and support the NSS' letter, that will help greatly. Cabinet officials prioritize responses to those politicians currently in office, so your asking your congressional delegation to support the NSS' letter will make this effort stronger. Thank you.

How to contact your U.S. Representatives: https://www.house.gov/representatives


Ledge View 5K Caveman Adventure Run

posted Apr 10, 2018, 6:53 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Apr 10, 2018, 6:54 AM ]

Ledge View 5K Caveman Adventure Run

Image may contain: drawing
Saturday, May 12th

Start Time:10 am

Not a "Tuff Mudder" but we have several challenges and you will get dirty! This is a one-of-a-kind course that features views from a 60ft. tower followed by entry into an underground cave system. Register by THIS THURSDAY to receive a Caveman 5K t-shirt and a hot/cold Tumbler courtesy of the Friends of Ledgeview Nature Center for only $25! https://runsignup.com/Race/WI/Chilton/Caveman5KAdventureRun

Volunteers Needed for 2018 Caving Season

posted Mar 12, 2018, 6:31 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Mar 12, 2018, 6:31 AM ]

Minnesota's Mystery Cave open for Jan. 1 First Day Hikes

posted Dec 27, 2017, 10:34 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Dec 27, 2017, 10:37 AM ]

                     Mystery Cave State Park. Photo credit: Minnesota DNR.

FORESTVILLE, Minn. - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is promoting a day of free hikes at 14 state parks on New Year’s Day, but there’s only one hike that is guaranteed to be an escape from the cold weather.

This year, for the first time during winter, guided tours of Mystery Cave State Park in Forestville are available. Discovered in 1937, Mystery Cave is the longest cave in Minnesota, spanning more than 13 miles underground. Mystery Cave also stays at a constant 48 degrees year-round. It’s usually a welcome escape from the heat in summer, but it sounds like a tropical vacation right now compared to single-digit and subzero temperatures across most of Minnesota.

Typically, public tours of Mystery Cave are only offered between April and October, but the cave is included in this year’s “First Day Hikes.” The nationwide effort led by state park systems is pushing people to start the New Year with fresh air and physical activity. More than 400 First Day Hikes are scheduled in all 50 states.

Tours of Mystery Cave will take place hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations for the cave tours are recommended, but tours also will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, if space is available. For information about tour prices and to make reservations, visit www.mndnr.gov/reservations or call 866-857-2757.

People should dress for the weather, so ideally in layers that can shed when they warm up as they get moving. They may also want to bring a light backpack to store a water bottle, a nutritious snack, binoculars, a camera, and those extra layers of clothing.

A vehicle permit ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit) is also required to enter Minnesota state parks.

For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).

Announcing the 53rd Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival

posted Jul 27, 2017, 7:04 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Jul 31, 2017, 3:27 PM ]

Announcing the 53rd Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival

August 25-27, 2017


   We are happy to announce that the 53rd annual Wisconsin Speleological Society (WSS) Hodag Hunt Festival is at Crystal Cave this year (http://www.acoolcave.com) near Spring Valley, Wisconsin. Crystal Cave is a great location as it features both extensive wild caving opportunities and a renowned breath taking commercial cave to visit.

   The Hodag Hunt Festival is a yearly weekend caving jubilee for cavers from Wisconsin and the surrounding states. It is a great time to get together for exploring lots of caves during the day, later reconnecting and relaxing with fellow cavers, and above all having lots of social fun and camaraderie. You do not have to be a WSS member or be affiliated with any other caving grotto to attend. Everyone is welcome! We do encourage new attendees to join the WSS if they are interested.

  Why Crystal Cave:  Crystal Cave is the largest explored cave system in Wisconsin, with over a mile of mapped cave passages. It would take well over a day just to see and admire all the passages and rooms in it. On the Crystal Cave property itself, there are also multiple additional caves that can be explored in easy walking distance from each other. Seeing all of these other individual caves thoroughly will take yet another day of exploring. One particularly interesting cave on the property is South Portal Cave. At South Portal, there has been an active excavation project in progress for years. During the last Hodag outing at Crystal Cave in 2010, South Portal had an impressive survey length of 554 feet. The cave has almost doubled in size since then. The cave today is getting close to measuring 1000 feet of passage. Once it achieves 1000 feet of passage, it will move into the unique top 10 list for Wisconsin cave lengths. Interestingly there are only 10 caves in Wisconsin that are over 1000 feet in length. Crystal Cave is at the top of that list with over a mile of passages. A recent breakthrough this summer in June added an additional 80 feet of voided passage and revealed multiple impressive new cave formations that have never been seen before. The closeness of yet another major breakthrough during the Hodag is a very real possibility. A special breakthrough excavation dig is being offered all day Thursday and Friday, August 24th and 25th, in South Portal Cave. You could become a historical participant of a major cave discovery in Wisconsin just by being at the Crystal Cave for Hodag Hunt Festival.

   Part of Crystal Cave is also a well known, highly decorated, commercial cave. The commercial tour offers an hour-long, underground trip down lighted stairways and even pathways by experienced and knowledgeable tour guides. Every registered Hodag participant, including kids, will be given free Crystal Cave commercial cave tickets. Each cave ticket is a $16 value per adult. The cave tour offers spectacular formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone that cover the ceiling and ledges of the cave. You will see something new and breathtaking at just about every corner of the tour.

   Other advantages for having the Hodag at Crystal Cave this year are onsite camping, caving, an evening meal, and a spectacular WSS auction that offers great deals for all. Everything is conveniently centrally located for all caving activities for the entire weekend without having to leave the Crystal Cave property.

  Requirements to attend: We have two very important requirements for everyone who is going into the noncommercial caves during the Hodag Hunt: 1) Everyone needs to have the proper caving equipment: a protective hard helmet of some sort and no less than hiking boots are a must for all caving trips; hands-free caving lights and protective clothing are highly recommended; knee pads and gloves will be needed for most trips (bring them if you have them, you will not regret having them); and 2) All your caving equipment and clothing must be clean to protect against the spread of the devastating White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is at Crystal Cave. It is responsibility of each caver to know and comply with current WI-DNR rules, regulations, and USFWS approved decontamination protocols.


                                                                 Hodag Fun: The WSS uses the Hodag Hunt weekend as a caving social gathering and uses the funds raised at the Hodag auction to support its various caving activities throughout the year. Please do bring items for the auction and some extra money for the great buys and interesting finds you will see at the auction. The weekend will be full of great caving trips, and the best part, you do not have to go any farther than a short walking distance from where you will be camped for the Hodag to see lots of caves. A full picnic style cookout dinner will be provided by the WSS on Saturday night. The evening meal is being offered at a minimal fee. There will be social gathering every night by a large pit fire to unwind from the day’s activities. Please bring any musical instruments to join in on the nightly fun activities. Featured for this year at the Hodag is a special arranged trip to Sandland Mine. Sandland Mine is the brainchild of Eric Sutterlin and is only 20 miles driving distance from Crystal Cave. Sandland Mine is a 3-D maze of tunnels that is being systematically excavated out according to a master surveyed plan and is designed to purposely disorient cavers. It is sort of like a corn maze but underground.
  Cost: Pre-Registration is $10 per person. On-site registration is $11 per person. There is no registration charge for children under 15. Camping on site per family is $5 for the entire weekend. The evening meal is $6 for adults and older children, $3 for children 3 to 13 in age, and children under 3 eat for free.

  Camping: Field sites for tents and campers that have no hookups are available right on the Crystal Cave property. Camping spaces may become limited depending on the Hodag turnout, so camping space availability will be on a first come first serve basis only. No space can be reserved, so it is best to arrive early if you can. We will do everything in our power that is reasonable to fit everyone in. The overflow area to camp if Crystal is full will be the Highland Ridge Campground in the Eau Galle Recreation Area (http://www.recreation.gov/campgroundDetails.do?topTabIndex=CampingSpot&contractCode=NRSO&parkId=73204). It will also be the camper’s choice to go there if you want electrical and full hookups. They do take reservations so it is wise to get a site locked in as soon as you can. The campground is about 7 miles from Crystal Cave. For reservations or information about the alternate camping site, call 715-778-5562.

   Camp Firewood: Due to the emerald ash borer, no firewood may be brought in for camping. The good news is Crystal Cave will be providing free all the firewood we need for our outing.

   Showers: There have been shower arrangements made less than a mile from the Crystal Cave entrance. The Spring Valley Golf Course will offer showers for a $5 per person and provide clean towels for anyone interested in getting cleaned up after a long day of caving activities.

   Caving Trips: Saturday caving trips will be offered from 10AM to 4PM and Sunday from 10 AM to 3 PM. Sign-up sheets will be available at the Registration Friday night and Saturday morning. A Hodag event briefing at 9:30 Saturday morning is required of everyone. For any wild caving trips, everyone needs to be aware of White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocol to go on any caving trips. Clean clothes and decontaminated caving gear are a must for all cave trips. Decontamination sprays and baths will be provided by the WSS for everyone’s use, if it is needed. Multiple caving trips will be offered. Eight on-site caves are available for caving in addition to Crystal Cave itself. The other on-site caves are Overlook Cave, Cancon Cave, Fox Den Cave, Play Caves, Tree Fork Cave, Fuzzy Critter Cave, Gargolies Cave, and South Portal Cave. An off-property trip to Sandland Mine is being offered. Other off-property cave trips may also become available closer to the actual Hodag event dates.

   Vertical Caving:  Bring your vertical caving gear, including ropes. A 35-foot lift will be provided at the campsite for vertical caving practice.

   Non-caving Activities:  Crystal Cave is only a 60-minute drive from the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. There is a multitude of things to see and do there. You have multiple Museums, Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota Zoo, Mall of America, and many more interesting sites. See

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/minneapolisandstpaul). Closer to Crystal Cave you have Eau Galle Recreation area, Spring Valley Gulf Course, Cady Cheese Factory and Gift Shoppe, Maple Leaf Orchard, Vino in the Valley and many more attractions found at (http://springvalleywisconsin.org/visit.html). If you like waterfalls, this gem of a waterfall is 32 miles from Spring Valley in Willow River State Park Willow River State Park - Wisconsin DNR.


Picnic Shelter: Registration and the main hub for informational activities at Crystal Cave for the Hodag will be at the new picnic shelter. The shelter is a covered building with lots of picnic tables and a cement floor; a great place to hang out in case of inclement weather. It is located close to the outdoor bathrooms next to the Crystal Cave gift shop. Check-in and registration will take place here. Please check in when you first arrive and before you set up at any camping site. It will also be the site for the Hodag evening meal and WSS auction.          

   Crystal Cave Directions: From Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN take Interstate 94 (I94) east into Wisconsin. Follow I94 19 miles past Hudson WI to Exit 19 (Ellsworth Exit). Turn south (right) onto Highway 63. Go seven miles south. Signs will direct you to turn left (east) on Hwy 29 towards Spring Valley and the cave. From Eau Claire, WI take Interstate 94 (I94) west to Exit 28 (Spring Valley). Turn south (left) onto Highway 128. Go five miles south to Highway 29. Turn right on Highway 29, following the signs to Spring Valley. Continue west on Highway 29 past Spring Valley for one more mile. Crystal Cave is on the left side of the highway.


                                                                        Hodag Event Schedule


Wednesday Night (August 23rd): Early check-in for those cavers participating in the all-day Thursday and Friday excavation dig in South Portal Cave. Camping is free for Wednesday and Thursday nights.


Thursday and Friday South Portal Excavations: Digging will begin at around 8:00 in the morning. Cavers will be on their own for lunch on Thursday and Friday. Just about everyone will just bring a light lunch to eat at the cave. Excavation time will conclude at dinner time.   


Thursday and Friday Dinner: Cavers are on their own for Thursday and Friday night dinners. There are multiple options for meals. The bill of fare includes fast food, home cooking, pizza, chicken, ice cream treats, baked goods, and fine dining. Baldwin ,WI just a little northwest of Spring Valley, about a 15 minute drive, offers nine restaurants offering a variety of good food and is located just off of the I-94 freeway. Spring Valley is just a 5-minute drive from Crystal Cave and has other great food options, including a Subway less than a mile from the hwy entrance to Crystal Cave.


Friday Registration: Registration starts at around 7:00 in the evening and will be run through Saturday morning for late arrivals.


Saturday Breakfast: Cavers will be on their own for breakfast. Denny’s Restaurant offers a huge breakfast menu selection and is only 15-minute drive from Crystal Cave at the intersection of I-94 and Hwy 128. The Subway in Spring valley also now offers a breakfast menu.


Saturday Caving: Caving activities start at 9:30 AM with the Hodag activity briefing. Everyone MUST attend the briefing. Cave trips will leave at 10:00. Everyone should be back at the campsite to get cleaned up by 5:00 to get ready for the cookout dinner.


Saturday Lunch: Cavers are on their own for lunch on Saturday. If on an extensive caving trip, lightly packed high energy foods are suggested.


Saturday Dinner Cookout: The Saturday Cookout Dinner will be served in the “Twinky”. Meal time is from 5:00 - 6:00. The cookout meal will be grilled hamburgers, brats, and hotdogs with all the fixings. Accompaniments to the grilled foods will be potato salad, coleslaw, chips, and dessert.


WSS Auction: The WSS Auction fund raiser will start around 6:30. Door prizes will also be given out during the auction.


Sunday Breakfast:  Cavers will be on their own for breakfast. Denny’s Restaurant offers a huge breakfast menu selection and is only 15-minute drive from Crystal Cave at the intersection of I-94 and Hwy 128. The Subway in Spring valley also now offers a breakfast menu.


Sunday Caving: There will be limited trips offered on Sunday. Caving activities start at 10:00 and should wrap up by 3:00 so people have plenty of time to tear down their camp sites and have daylight travel time for home.

     2017 WSS Hodag Hunt Registration Form

 Click Here

Geographic Translocation of Bats: Known and Potential Problems

posted Jan 4, 2017, 3:56 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Aug 30, 2017, 7:51 AM ]

Geographic Translocation of Bats:
Known and Potential Problems
Denny G. Constantine*

Natural, accidental, and intentional translocation of bats,
both intra- and intercontinentally, has been documented. Some
bats have been translocated while incubating infectious diseases,
including rabies or related lyssavirus infections; others
have escaped confinement en route to or at their destinations,
while others have been released deliberately. Known events
and potential consequences of bat translocation are reviewed,
including a proposed solution to the attendant problems.

Among the many potential consequences resulting from the
geographic translocation of life forms is the spread of
infectious disease organisms harbored by that life form. This
consequence was demonstrated long ago by the early devastation
of native American human populations caused by pathogens
inadvertently introduced by European explorers.
Similarly, wildlife rabies outbreaks occurred recently in the
United States after foxes, coyotes, and raccoons were translocated
to restock areas where these animals are hunted for
sport. Wild populations of introduced species can also become
common disease vectors where few or none existed before,
such as the current role of Indian mongooses (Herpestes javanicus)
in rabies transmission on Caribbean islands (1), or
they can become predators of native species, for example, the
wildlife destruction that occurred after ferrets and stoats were
introduced into New Zealand (2).
Bats have been translocated through natural, accidental,
and deliberate means. Pathogens associated with bats, such as
Rabies virus (RABV) and related lyssaviruses (3–6), can cause
disease after protracted incubation periods, ensuring the
extended survival of the host and parasite during periods of
translocation. Many bat species enter a hibernationlike state in
a cold environment, which further prolongs survival. In this
article, I describe some occurrences of bat translocation (published,
as well as previously unreported) and the potential consequences
of that translocation, as the basis for suggesting
preventive measures to alleviate the problems that accompany
the relocation of bats across the world.

Translocation of Bats
Natural Translocation
Some species of bats hibernate at the approach of cold
weather; other species migrate to warm areas instead. Bats that
migrate along coastlines take shortcuts over water and are
apparently blown far out to sea at times. Many North American
migrant bats have been found in Bermuda, 1,046 km east
of North Carolina, United States, during fall and spring migrations,
evidently having been blown there by wind along with
waves of migratory birds (7). These translocated bats include
Hoary Bats (Lasiurus cinereus), Red Bats (L. borealis), Seminole
Bats (L. seminolus), and Silver-haired Bats (Lasionycteris
noctivagans), all species from which RABV has been isolated
(8). Hoary Bats are also occasionally found in rabies-free Iceland,
also possibly blown there by the wind; one bat was captured
in the Orkney Islands, off rabies-free Scotland (9).
Similarly, Hoary Bats are sometimes found in the Galapagos
Islands, 966 km off the west coast of South America (10).

Translocation after Landing on Ships

Exhausted bats flying far at sea both individually and in
flocks have been reported to alight on ships and be transported
to unintended destinations. Most records are from the North
Atlantic Ocean and involve Red Bats and Silver-haired Bats
(11). A Southern Yellow Bat (Lasiurus ega) landed on a ship
over 322 km from the coast of Argentina (12). A “fruit-destroying
bat” was reported sleeping in the rigging of a ship upon
arrival in Hawaii from the Philippines (13), and a frugivorous
bat (Vampyressa pusilla) evidently boarded a vessel passing
through the Panama Canal and was later found aboard when the
ship was between Australia and Tasmania (14).

Translocation after Using Ships for Shelter
Bats sometimes roost in or on ships in port and may be
transported as a consequence. Silver-haired bats were discovered
hibernating in hulls of ships, and numbers of them found
various refuges on ships and yachts in New York (15). Little
Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) roosted aboard a ship that frequently
traveled from Canada to Europe, flying ashore after
arrival in the Netherlands and England (16). The presence of
individual Little Brown Bats in rabies-free Iceland (9) and
Kamchatka, Russia (17), has been attributed to travel by ship.
RABV, other viruses, and Histoplasma capsulatum have been
found in this species (3,8).
On January 21, 1997, a stevedore working in the hold of a
ship being unloaded in Long Beach, California, after its arrival
from Korea, was bitten on the back of his neck by a bat. A fluorescent
rabies antibody test was negative for RABV infection.
On February 1, I received the bat for evaluation and determined
it to be a Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus), which is similar to
the Big Brown Bat (E. fuscus) but with a slightly more massive 
skull. The Serotine has been reported in North Africa and
England and across Europe and Asia to Korea. Hundreds of ill
or dead Serotines have been found infected with the
RABV-related European bat lyssavirus 1 (EBLV-1) in Europe,
where one or two persons have died of the infection after bat
bites (5). The rabies conjugate used in the rabies test on the
Serotine bat’s brain reportedly reacts with this virus as well.

Translocation in Shipping Containers

Translocation of bats by ship also occurs when bats are
closed inside shipping containers. Free-tailed bats from the
tropics are occasionally transported long distances in fruit
shipments (18). A Pallid Bat (Antrozous pallidus) was discovered
in Victoria, British Columbia, in a shipment of lettuce
from California (19), where RABV-infected Pallid Bats have
been identified. A Big Brown Bat was found hibernating in a
timber container from Canada when it was unloaded in the
Netherlands (16). An Asiatic Pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus javanicus)
was discovered in a container transported by ship from
Japan to New Zealand (20). Sasaki et al. (21) reported the
arrival in rabies-free Hawaii of a RABV-infected Big Brown
Bat found flying in an automobile container from California.
Subsequent study indicated that previously the bat had been
transported to California either from Florida in the shipping
container or from Michigan in an automobile.
In October 1995, a group of live bats was observed hanging
in a dark corner within a large shipping container that had
just arrived at a Los Angeles port from Puerto Rico, but the
bats escaped as capture was attempted and no further reports
of these bats were made. Histoplasmosis, apparently absent in
California except for imported human infections, has been
diagnosed in some Puerto Rican bats.

Translocation by Aircraft

Bat translocation by aircraft has been reported several
times. A Little Brown Bat was found clinging to a seat in an
airplane at the end of a flight in Canada (22). An Eastern Pipistrelle
bat (Pipistrellus subflavus) was recovered from a plane
that had just arrived in Texas from Mexico (23); RABVinfected
bats of this species have been identified in the United
States and Canada. The carcass of a Little Brown Bat, presumably
from Tacoma, Washington, was found on a runway at an
Air Force base on rabies-free Guam (24). Stebbings reported
the arrival in England of a Silver-haired Bat aboard a U.S. Air
Force cargo plane from Delaware (25). Observed flying in the
plane en route, the bat was captured later while sleeping in a
crew member’s bed in the aircraft.
An Asiatic Pipistrelle bat was captured May 25, 1993,
aboard an airliner en route from Tokyo to San Francisco. This
bat was negative for RABV. The next month a Yuma Myotis
bat (Myotis yumanensis) was discovered flying aboard a U.S.
Air Force cargo plane en route from California to Hawaii. This
bat was also negative for RABV, although rabies has been
diagnosed in the species in California. Evidently the bat was
loaded into the aircraft within a shipment of fruit.
In early March 1995, a traveler who had just arrived in Los
Angeles by aircraft from South Africa opened his suitcase and
observed a bat fly out. The suitcase had been closed three days
earlier during darkness in a hut within Kruger National Park.
The bat was negative for RABV, and the frozen carcass was
sent to me 2 months later with the history of origin in a Los
Angeles County community. At first glance, the bat appeared
to be a common local free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis),
but closer inspection indicated differences, although the bat
belonged to a family with similar representatives in warm
areas worldwide. After extensive study, I determined the specimen
to be a Wrinkle-lipped bat (Chaerephon pumila), known
throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and southern
Arabia. Further research disclosed the transported bat’s African
origin. This species supports experimental replication of
Ebola virus without showing disease signs (26); the remainder
of the carcass was immediately sent to a federal laboratory for
Ebola virus tests, which proved negative. Several other viruses
have also been isolated from the salivary glands of this species
in Africa (3).
In June 1997, a woman was bitten by a bat hiding in clothing
she was packing before an airline flight from Costa Rica to
California. The live bat was restrained in a plastic bag during
the flight; it was dead on arrival. The bat was negative for
RABV and was identified as a Sinaloan Mastiff Bat (Molossus
sinaloae), an insectivorous species in which RABV has been
reported (5).

Translocation for Confinement

Bats have been transported varying distances, sometimes
worldwide, to be maintained in captivity as research animals,
as live specimens in zoos or other exhibits, and as pets. Transport
for research purposes is not noteworthy except in unusual
circumstances. A Big Brown Bat in the incubational stages of
rabies was among live bats sent from Canada to a laboratory in
Germany, where the bat developed clinical rabies (27). Similarly,
six Big Brown Bats that were incubating RABV were in
a group sent from the United States to a laboratory in Denmark
(28). However, recipient laboratories understood the risks and
had taken necessary precautions.
RABV-infected individual bats of the tropical American
common Vampire Bat (Desmodus rotundus) have been
reported throughout their geographic range, which extends
from northern Mexico south to Chile and Uruguay (8,29).
RABV has also developed in Vampire Bats after being transported
to laboratories. In addition, during the 1970s, a group of
these bats sent from Mexico to a laboratory in the United
States presumably escaped en route, because only the empty
shipping container arrived.
Increasing interest in bats has resulted in displaying of
more varieties of these mammals, including Vampire Bats, to
the public (5). One such display presented a problem I investigated
in 1988 after four of eight Vampire Bats escaped their
flight cage within a cavelike structure at a southern California
zoo 1 month after their arrival from Mexico through a Texas
Emerging Infectious Diseases • Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2003 19
supplier. Two escaped bats were found dead, possibly due to
starvation or unusually cold weather. One dead bat had nearly
escaped the building, and the other was outside. Neither bat
was infected with RABV. The apparent escape route to the outside
was through a fragile false cave ceiling, which could not
be inspected. This ceiling may have contained the carcasses of
the remaining two missing bats, possibly a male and a female.
I found no bat bites on zoo animals and no bats or bat feces in
likely hideaways in the zoo.
The large fruit-eating bats (genus Pteropus) live on land
masses, including islands, from Madagascar, India, Southeast
Asia, the East Indies, the Philippines, and Australia to the
Samoan and Cook Islands of the South Pacific Ocean. They
have been popular zoo attractions for many years. RABV was
reported in a Pteropus in India (8), and RABV-related lyssaviruses
were reported in four species of Pteropus and an insectivorous
species in Australia, where two persons died of these
infections (30).
Three additional viruses (Paramyxoviridae family)
ascribed to Pteropus origin have proven pathogenic or fatal to
people and domestic animals. Four species of Australian
Pteropus bats in Queensland carry Hendra virus without developing
symptoms. These bats disseminate virus in urine or placental
fluid during birthing, and the virus is later ingested by
pregnant horses that amplify the virus, which then spreads to
people and causes a fatal pneumonia (13/20 horses were
infected in a 1994 outbreak, which resulted in two human
deaths) (30). The second virus, Menangle virus, is considered
to be spread to pigs in Australia by the same four species of
Pteropus bats, producing stillbirths with deformities in 1998 in
27% of litters, as well as an influenzalike illness in humans
(30). The third virus, Nipah virus, identified in urine and saliva
of Pteropus bats in Malaysia, apparently spreads the virus to
pigs and destroyed that country’s swine industry in 1998. The
virus spread from pigs to hundreds of industry workers;
approximately 40% of these workers died of severe viral
encephalitis caused by the agent (31).
Importation of fruit-eating bats has long been severely
restricted to protect the fruit industry in the United States. The
Egyptian Rousette bat (Rousettus egyptiacus) is a widespread
Old World fruit bat that readily reproduces in captivity; thus
colonies occur in some zoos. This species has been implicated
in several viral infections in Africa (3). An error occurred in
1994, when thousands of these and other bat species were permitted
entry into the United States for sale as pets or for exhibition
(28); this procedural mistake resulted in a policy change
to prevent recurrence. Antibodies to West Nile virus (WNV)
had been reported in the R. egyptiacus species in Uganda and
Israel (3), and the virus had been isolated in India from the
nearly indistinguishable R. leschenaulti, which overlaps geographically
with R. egyptiacus in Pakistan (32). The entry of
R. egyptiacus into the United States in 1994 suggests a remote
connection with the subsequent outbreak of WNV there, first
observed 5 years later among captive and wild birds at a zoo in
New York (33).
In 1997, two R. egyptiacus bats died with rabies-like
symptoms in a Denmark zoo; they were later found to be
infected with EBLV-1 subtype A, a RABV-related agent
known to have caused deaths in European insectivorous bats
and in humans. The two infected bats had arrived recently
from a Netherlands zoo, where the source captive bat population
subsequently was destroyed (34). A replacement colony
was similarly destroyed after a bat originating from a Belgian
zoo was also determined to be infected (35).
Persons concerned about sick and injured wildlife often try
to rehabilitate disabled bats, sometimes transporting the animals
a considerable distance from sites of discovery. Unfortunately,
an average of 10% of disabled bats tested in North
America are found to be infected with RABV, exposing those
trying to rehabilitate the bats to rabies. If they have received
preexposure rabies prophylaxis in advance, these persons are
advised to take booster shots of vaccine; otherwise, they are
advised to take both antirabies globulin as well as the full vaccine
Often, attempting to reverse the negative image of bats
usually held by the public, persons trying to rehabilitate sick
bats may suppress warnings of rabies hazards, doing both bats
and the public a disservice. Moreover, to avoid the embarrassment
of repeated exposures to rabid bats, some persons working
in bat rehabilitation are known to arrange submission of
rabies-suspect bats to a variety of different laboratories in different
geographic areas, thus disguising the true history of the
bat; this practice may protect the rehabilitator but prevent
other persons or pets exposed earlier from receiving adequate
antirabies management.

Translocation for Release

Bats have been translocated and released in attempts to
establish bat populations in new areas for reasons such as insect
control and experimental study. Such efforts are sometimes
supplemented by providing living quarters or shelters for bats
ranging from elevated boxlike structures to tunnels. Before the
knowledge that some insectivorous bats might be infected with
rabies or other pathogens, bats were sometimes transported
great distances over land or overseas and released in efforts to
establish populations at the new location. Tomich (13) assembled
historical records about the importation and release in
rabies-free Hawaii of Asiatic Pipistrelle bats from Japan and
free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) from California during
the late 1800s to establish bat populations for insect control
purposes, but the attempts were evidently unsuccessful.
Observing that destruction of old-growth forests eliminated
the tree hollow homes of Polish bats, Krzanowski (36)
recommended the introduction into Poland of Red Bats and
Hoary Bats from the United States because these species take
shelter in tree foliage rather than hollows, and they migrate at
the approach of cold weather rather than hibernate in tree cavities.
However, rabies was discovered simultaneously in North
American insectivorous bats, including these two species, discouraging
further consideration of the proposal.

20 Emerging Infectious Diseases • Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2003
The homing abilities of bats have routinely been studied by
transporting and releasing marked bats up to 805 km from
their home roost, which is then monitored for the return of the
marked bats (37). RABV infection has now been identified in
11 of the 12 North American species studied, and histoplasmosis
is known in 6; RABV-related lyssavirus infections have
been reported in 5 of 12 European species studied (8).
During World War II, field trials were conducted in the
southwestern United States to determine the effectiveness of
disseminating thousands of free-tailed bats (T. brasiliensis) in
the air, each transporting a small time-activated fire bomb. The
objective was to start thousands of simultaneous fires in adversary
target areas, achieved after each bat had sought out a hideaway
in various available structures (38). As a participant in
the project, I observed that each bomb or dummy bomb,
attached by a short string and surgical clip to the bat’s abdominal
skin, was disengaged after the bat alighted in a refuge and
chewed through the string. Thousands of bats were transported
<1,609 km distant from source bat caves in Texas and New
Mexico to test areas in California, New Mexico, and Utah.
Frequently, the tests were postponed, and the freshly captured
bats were released unencumbered at or near test sites.
Unknown at the time, RABV is now known to occur in 0.5%
of bats in the source caves (8), so the virus was almost certainly
translocated with the bats. H. capsulatum, the causative
fungus of histoplasmosis, also has been isolated from these
bats and their guano in the source caves, but neither bats nor
guano have yielded the agent in extensive surveys in California,
which is regarded as free of the fungus; no cases of indigenous
origin have been detected (8).

Bats and the pathogenic organisms they sometimes harbor
are being transported by humans within and between continents,
and sometimes these transported bats escape. Because
bats reproduce slowly (usually only one or two offspring are
produced annually by a female), the chances of successful
introduction of the species are minimized. Populations would
more likely develop should large numbers be freed in places
favorable to survival. Although a single escaped bat might not
survive long or reproduce, it would seek shelter in places frequented
by local bats to which it might transmit pathogens. As
has been observed, introduced pathogens include RABV, other
lyssaviruses, or various other agents.
Vampire Bats can be especially problematic in view of
their possible colonization in warm climates and their dependence
on a diet of blood, thus necessitating their biting vertebrates,
including man and domestic animals. As reported, in
addition to their known role as biologic vectors of rabies to
humans and domestic animals and surra (Trypanosoma evansi)
to horses and cattle, Vampire Bats can also be temporary biologic
as well as mechanical vectors of Venezuelan equine
encephalomyelitis virus and foot-and-mouth disease. They are
likely effective mechanical vectors if not biologic vectors of
any bloodborne pathogen, including the AIDS virus (29). Various
species of fruit-eating bats are infected at times with
pathogens destructive to other bats, humans, and domestic animals.
However, their entry to many areas is restricted due to
concern that their escape would lead to populations destructive
to fruit crops.
Accidental or planned translocations of bats between land
masses happens almost certainly with far greater frequency
than is reported. Such events can be embarrassing, and
although incidents that result in successful containment are
more likely to be reported, failed efforts can remain unpublicized.
Relevant reporting requirements do not exist. Personnel
involved in the various described incidents generally have performed
very well in efforts to resolve the problems, often with
immediately contrived solutions. Inspectors at entry centers
are usually exceptionally competent because they must cover a
broad array of subject areas, but their competency must be
taxed at times. For example, most bats are exceptionally adept
at avoiding capture, and even bat scientists with special equipment
frequently are outmaneuvered. Some inspectors contact
specialists for help in emergencies, but help is not always
available or is displaced by previous commitments and economic
necessities. Previous contractual arrangements with
institutions such as universities, natural history museums,
zoos, or specialized commercial services could dispel most relevant
problems, including funding, and maintain program continuity.
Unaffiliated specialized personnel would be expected
to maintain or acquire relevant competency, but incidents,
such as those cited here, show some lapses. Ideally, the services
of a bat expert are required. For example, if bats are to be
excluded from any vehicle of conveyance, the usual procedures
and equipment should be reviewed by responsible persons
very familiar with bats, their capabilities, their capture,
their confinement, and their exclusion in order to recognize
flaws that permit bats to be transported. Thus, experts can help
establish and maintain more effective programs.

Appreciation is extended to the counties and state of California
and to William E. Rainey, Elizabeth D. Pierson, Charles E. Rupprecht,
Jean S. Smith, Kevin F. Reilly, Thomas H. Kunz, and Amy Turmelle
whose help made relevant reports possible.
After the 1953 discovery of bat rabies in the United States, Dr.
Constantine established the Southwest Rabies Investigations Station
in New Mexico for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
and developed its program to investigate the problem and control bat
rabies. Now retired, he continues research in the field.

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31. Enserink M. Malaysian researchers trace Nipah virus outbreak to bats.
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Address for correspondence: Denny G. Constantine, 1899 Olmo Way, Walnut
Creek, California, 94598 USA

White-Nose Syndrome: New Policies Needed for Cave Management

posted Oct 20, 2016, 6:15 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Oct 20, 2016, 6:16 AM ]

White-Nose Syndrome

White-Nose Syndrome: New Policies Needed for Cave Management
By Merlin Tuttle

img-4471edfff_from-powerpointA field team is measuring bat roost stains in a limestone cave in Mexico to assess its approximate past importance to bats. Domed ceilings in warm caves are often extra darkly stained and etched due to heavy use by nursery colonies.

As reported in my keynote address at the 46th annual meeting of North American bat researchers last week, despite our best efforts, WNS has spread rapidly from coast to coast, and there is nothing we can do to stop, slow or find a safe, effective and practically applicable cure. It is here to stay, and eventually will reach every species and habitat that is susceptible. Bats are spreading it far more effectively than humans ever could. It is time to refocus our efforts on helping the few survivors rebuild resistant populations, as apparently has already happened in Asia and Europe.

The overwhelming response from colleagues was that it is time to refocus our efforts on providing the best possible protection at a time when populations are at critical lows. Each winter entry into a bat hibernation site forces at least partial arousals, adding a potentially insurmountable burden to already life-threatening energy losses caused by WNS. No matter how well intended, we can’t afford to risk becoming the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

This small bachelor group of Fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) likely has moved more often or has used this site for a shorter period, so its stains are less pronounced.

I was encouraged to speak with several colleagues at the conference who are already documenting apparent recovery of protected colonies of little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) in the Northeast. Though this is one of the hardest hit species, current studies are documenting apparent reproductive success and gradual recovery. That’s very encouraging!

It is time to focus all possible resources on protecting surviving remnants from unnecessary disturbance. It is also time to acknowledge that closing all caves, even those never used by bats, is counterproductive, needlessly risking partnerships with cavers that we can’t afford to lose.

These stains illustrate an important characteristic of bat versus mineral stains. Because bat stains result from contact with bat bodies, they are always darkest on distal surfaces, lightest in recessed areas less in contact with bat bodies. In contrast, mineral stains tend to be as dark or darker in recessed areas. Dark stains are most often associated with warm roosts used in summer. They also occur in extra warm parts of hibernation caves, where bats go when awake.

Members of the National Speleological Society have been extremely cooperative during this multi-year period in which access to many of their favorite caves has been denied in hope of slowing the spread of WNS. They have played key roles, contributing financially in addition to helping researchers and resource managers find and protect key sites. Nevertheless, broad cave closures clearly have failed. Though reasonable precautions to avoid disturbance in caves suitable for bat occupancy should continue, there are no further reasons to restrict cavers from using caves which are not suitable for bats.

So how does one differentiate between caves suited for bat use versus those that are not? In the coolest climates caves are seldom used except for winter hibernation, and the opposite is true in the warmest climates. Southern caves are used mostly for rearing young. In intermediate climates, a few typically multi-entrance caves may provide effective cool or warm air traps, and to the extent that their volume is sufficient to trap large quantities of cold or warm air that remains relatively stable, they may provide ideal sites for hibernation or rearing young.

Where roosts have been used for very long periods, especially by nursery colonies in domed ceilings, the limestone becomes etched by CO2 from the bats’ breath, combined with wear from clinging claws. In such locations the harder, distal portions of the limestone surface also become extra darkly stained, sometimes also polished.

Throughout mid-latitudes, where a large proportion of North America’s caves are located, fewer than 10 percent are important for either hibernation or nursery purposes. However, at extreme northern or southern latitudes, large proportions of caves may be important for bats in winter or summer only. A few also may be important as migratory stopover sites.

img_4723edffffSome caves harbored truly massive numbers of bats prior to the arrival of human disturbance. This one in northern Mexico shows clear staining and guano evidence of past use by an enormous colony of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), one that almost certainly numbered in the 10s of millions. The staining continues for more than a quarter of a mile (0.4 km). Locals report having extracted a truckload of guano daily for more than 20 years.

The largest, most complex caves, with the largest (especially multi-level) entrances have traditionally sheltered the biggest and most diverse bat populations, mostly because they provide the widest range of temperatures, especially important during times of climate change. Any mid-latitude cave that traps and holds large volumes of exceptionally cold or warm air likely has been critically important for bats in the past. Large volume also means improved survival due to less unpredictable fluctuation. When bats are no longer using such caves, it is normally due to human disturbance or changes that have altered air flow unfavorably.

So how does one determine historical bat use? In a large proportion of caves, past use can remain clearly visible for hundreds of years after bats have been extirpated. Most limestone is light in color and is typically stained a rusty reddish color by prolonged bat use. With a little experience bat roost stains are typically easy to recognize. Caves where limestone is too hard or soft for leaving long-lasting stains are rare in North America. Old guano deposits, if not completely obscured by human traffic, may prove additionally useful.

0010740-editRoost stains in bat hibernation caves are typically lighter and less etched into the limestone compared with those left by active summer colonies. However sites of extra long and intense use sometimes show conspicuous evidence. Stains left by hibernating bats are often on vertical walls in extra stably cool caves that efficiently trap and store cold winter air without freezing. These Indiana myotis (Myotis sodalis) are hibernating in a marginal cave where numbers are declining.

By measuring areas of bat-stained limestone it is possible to make ballpark estimates of past population sizes. Most cave-roosting bats of North America cluster at densities of roughly 200 or more bats per square foot, so by measuring the approximate area of staining, and conservatively multiplying the area times 200, one can gain rough estimates of past population sizes. Certainly, when hundreds, or thousands of square feet are stained, that would indicate a past mother-lode roost for bats.

Even when no bats remain in such a cave, large populations often can be rebuilt if protected from disturbance, and human alterations to air flow are remedied. Cavers are typically the first to discover and report such evidence and already have proven invaluable in restoring some of America’s largest bat populations. This is a time when such cooperation is especially important, potentially contributing greatly to the recovery of cave-dwelling species.

Gray bats (Myotis grisescens) hibernating in Pearson Cave, Tennessee.These gray myotis (Myotis grisescens) have only moderately stained and etched surfaces at this roost, used since human disturbance forced them to move from a cooler, preferred roost in the same cave.

It is tempting to point out that in North America’s richest cave areas, most caves are unused by bats, and that those used are normally occupied only in summer or winter. Unfortunately, it is the largest, most complex caves that are often the most sought after by both bats and cavers. Nevertheless, when wise managers and cavers cooperate, they will often find that even in these complex caves, bats only need relatively small proportions in any given season, and that parts can remain open to responsible caving during specific times or even year-round.

For example, the famous Fern Cave in northern Alabama includes miles of passages critical to hibernating bats as well as miles of passages of extraordinary interest to cavers but not to bats. For more than 20 years, responsible members of the Huntsville Grotto of the National Speleological Society played a critical management role through a cooperative agreement. As site managers, they

psp-image-8This is an example of heavy use of a limestone crevice, over many years, by a small group of bats. Notice the heavy etching and dark staining at the edge, where bats can most easily cling to the surface. The staining gradually fades with increasing distance from the crevice.

regulated access in a manner very helpful to responsible cavers, to more than a million hibernating bats and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the owner responsible for its protection).

The agency lacked the manpower and resources necessary to provide adequate protection for this remote property, so were happy to have onsite help from the Huntsville Grotto. Organized cavers were present year-round in the parts unused by bats, and near enough to check the entrance to hibernation areas for possible vandals or other problems. They also were able to use the bat area during the bats’ summer absence. Cavers provided the eyes and ears the Service lacked and did an exemplary job of ensuring that only authorized, supervised entry occurred.

One hundred thousand gray bats hibernating at 32 degrees F in Pearson Cave, Tennessee.One hundred thousand gray myotis hibernating at 32 degrees F (O degrees C) in a Tennessee cave. These bats roost in an incredibly stable cold air trap just 50 feet (15 m) from the cave entrance only when they remain undisturbed for several years. When disturbed they move to inner areas and decline in numbers due to the increased cost of hibernation at higher temperatures.

Unfortunately, when WNS became a threat, the cooperative management agreement was canceled, and no further entry by organized cavers into any part of the cave was permitted. The subsequent lack of regular monitoring by trained grotto members resulted in extensive vandalism when the government was unable to protect it from entry by an uninformed public. Moreover, the official closure appears to have had no effect in preventing the arrival of WNS. I hope this sad lesson will serve as an example of the importance of cooperation between cave owners and managers and responsible members of organized caving groups.


White-Nose Syndrome: Origin, Impact and Management

By Merlin D. Tuttle

White-nose syndrome (WNS) impact on bats - photo by nancy heaslipWNS infected bats.

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly known as Geomyces destructans). It was first recorded from a photo taken in a cave in Schoharie County, New York in 2006. By the summer of 2014, it had spread across most of eastern North America (25 states and 5 Canadian provinces). In 2015 it reached Nebraska and in early 2016 had also been detected in Washington State.

It appears to have come from Europe via accidental introduction. But we still don’t know how it arrived. It has been hypothesized to have come on the shoes or clothing of a person who contacted it in a European cave, then visited a commercial cave in New York. However, in attempting to explain its sudden appearance in Washington State, Dr. William Halliday has pointed out a possibly more plausible explanation. He notes that, in both New York and Washington, the first sick bats were found within about 30 miles of a major shipping terminal where large quantities of freight are unloaded from Europe and Asia, and that bats have been known to “hitchhike” in large storage containers. It will be interesting to see if fungal cultures from Washington State versus New York can shed light on this intriguing question.

In eastern North America WNS has killed up to 90% of some species that hibernate in caves (especially little brown bats, northern long-eared bats and tricolored bats), with death tolls ranging in the millions. Other cave-hibernators, such as endangered Virginia big-eared and gray bats, seem to be unaffected. Additionally cave-dwellers that don’t hibernate, as well as tree-dwellers appear to be unaffected.

Infections cause bats to arouse too often from hibernation, exhausting limited fat reserves before they can feed again in spring. Though not yet proven, it seems likely that mortality will be heaviest where winters are longest.

Though WNS has had devastating impact on populations of bats that hibernate in caves, it also has provided an unprecedented opportunity to educate millions of Americans regarding the values of bats as insect predators and has stimulated the first widespread summer monitoring of status trends.

It is important to note that European bats appear to have already developed resistance to this fungus. And available evidence suggests that, with careful protection, small numbers of survivors in America will also be able to slowly rebuild immune populations.

I believe we are well past the point of stopping or even slowing this now widespread infection. The guiding principle must be “first, do no harm.” Killing infected bats is pointless, and attempting to decontaminate natural roosts with toxins or foreign organisms could result in disastrous unintended consequences. Finally, treating individual bats is impractical at more than a small, local scale, and it remains to be seen whether treated individuals will then be resistant to reinfection.


Our best remaining options are to: 1) strictly avoid further winter disturbance, 2) increase year-round protection of all roosts, 3) educate the public to overcome fear and understand the values of conserving bats and 4) promote minimally invasive research to better understand bat needs and status trends.


Aside from strict protection of bat roosting sites, especially in winter, there appears to be no further justification for closing caves. Organized cavers have proven themselves to be invaluable leaders in detecting sites in need of protection, in building and monitoring protective gates and in informing state, federal and private managers of vandalism. We owe a special debt of gratitude for their invaluable cooperation and leadership despite the fact that this crisis often has excluded them from their favorite places.

Announcing the 52nd Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival Sepetember 9-11, 2016

posted Aug 3, 2016, 4:51 AM by Al Schema   [ updated Aug 3, 2016, 4:51 AM ]

We are happy to announce that the 52nd annual Wisconsin Speleological
Society (WSS) Hodag Hunt Festival is scheduled for September 9-11, 2016, and we are set for yet another fun and adventurous caving weekend celebration. The Hodag Hunt Festival is a yearly weekend caving jubilee for Wisconsin and the surrounding states’ cavers. It is a great time to get together for exploring caves during the day, later reconnecting and relaxing with fellow cavers, and above all, having lots of social fun and camaraderie. Everyone is welcome to attend; you do not have to be a WSS member or be affiliated with any other caving grotto. Beginning cavers are all welcome.
This year’s event will be at Spook Cave & Campground which is uniquely known for its underground boat tours (http://spookcave.com/), located near McGregor, Iowa. The cave was first discovered in 1953 and opened for business in 1955. Spook Cave is an easy 9-mile drive from Prairie du Chien, in southwestern Wisconsin. Cross the Mississippi River from Prairie Du Chien into Iowa on Hwy 18 and drive due west for approximately 8 miles, watch for Spook Cave advertising signs, turn right and head due north one mile on Spook Cave Road. Turn left at the Bloody Run Creek bridge to enter the Spook Cave campground. Spook Cave’s address is 13299 Spook Cave Road, McGregor, Iowa, 52157.
Why Spook Cave & Campground: Spook Cave was chosen for this year’s Hodag
celebration for its uniqueness of being out of state. There have only been three other times that a Hodag Festival event has been out of state. One outing was in Northern Michigan in 2000. Another outing was a combined get together with the MSS at the Cornfeed in 2002 in Minnesota. Finally, the other out of state outing was at Spook Cave in 1987. Spook Cave is one of only a small handful of show caves in the USA that are toured by boat and it is the closest one to Wisconsin that offers boat tours. You don’t have to walk through the cave, but just lean back and leisurely glide through a lighted cave on a 40-minute boat ride to see stalactites and numerous other spectacular natural formations that offer numerous photo opportunities. Spook Cave Campground also features its own waterfall. Spook Cave was also chosen as the Hodag Festival site because of its close proximity to some of the most popular tourist and photo unique areas in eastern Iowa. With so much to see and do near Spook Cave, your weekend will be full of adventurist trips and leave you with monumental memories for a lifetime to come.
Hodag Fun: The WSS uses the Hodag Hunt Festival weekend as a caving social gathering and uses the funds raised at the Hodag auction to support its various caving activities throughout the year. Besides great commercial caving opportunities and scenic local attractions on both Saturday and Sunday, the WSS offers a great breakfast on both mornings, a picnic supper on Saturday night, and an auction after our evening meal. Please do bring items for the auction and some extra money for the great buys and interesting finds you will see. Nighttime activities include campfires and some spontaneous singing and playing of music if one is inclined to do so.
Camping: The WSS has reserved the group campsite at the Spook Cave Campground for camping. It does have water and a porta-pottie, but no
electricity. The site includes a small lake for fishing and a roped-off swimming area with a small sandy beach. On-site camping costs are $4 per night/person. Large families will only be charged a maximum of $20 per night/family in the group campsite. Group site camping needs to be paid directly to the WSS. All Hodag participants need to check in with the campground office to get vehicle passes. Individual non-group camping sites/day through the Spook Cave Campground with no hookups are available at $25, electricity and water hookups at $31, and those with an additional sewage hookup at $36. Costs are based on three people per site. A $2.50 charge/person is an additional site expense. Spook Cave Campground also has full service cabins to rent starting at $380 per weekend. Get your non-group site reservations locked in early to assure availability to the Spook Cave Campground at (http://spookcave.com/). All campsites including the group camp site have access to free showers, coin laundry, and flush toilet facilities. Golf cart rentals are also available for getting around the campground.
Registration: All participants of the Hodag Hunt Festival must register for the event. The Hodag on-site registration will begin Friday evening about 7:00 and continue through Saturday morning. On-site registration for ages 16 and above is $11, including the 2016 Hodag Hunt Festival Guidebook. There is no registration fee for kids age 15 and under.
Meal/Auction: Our evening meal and auction will be at the Driftless Area Wetlands Center near Marquette, Iowa 

(http://www.driftlessareawetlandcentre.com/). Marquette is on the Iowa side of the Hwy 18 Mississippi River bridge that links Iowa and Wisconsin. The Center is located on Hwy 18, one mile west of the Mississippi bridge and 8 miles from Spook Cave. The WSS has reserved the entire Center for our Hodag use from 4:00 PM till 10:00 PM. The Center includes a large parking area, with plenty of outside and inside seating for meals, a full kitchen, and indoor bathroom facilities. Our meal will be a family style all you can eat picnic-style meal which includes grilled brats, hotdogs, burgers, and all the picnic favorites of coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, chips, as well as an assortment of beverages. The meal will be served from 6:00 - 7:30 PM. To keep costs down for Hodag participants, the meal costs are very reasonable at $6/per adult. Kids’ meals from age 2 to 12 are $3. Kids under 2 eat for free. The Hodag auction will immediately follow the meal at 7:30 inside the Driftless Area Wetlands Center.
Breakfast: Both Saturday and Sunday mornings will feature an all you can eat breakfast put on by the WSS right at the group site reserved campsite. The breakfast is $5 per person/meal, and will include pancakes, breakfast sausages, fruit, milk, coffee, and juices. You just never know what multiple unique flavors of pancakes will be offered this year by our renowned resident chef, Allan Schema.
Hodag Caving Trips: This year the WSS is only sponsoring show cave trips, as the Hodag Festival will be outside Wisconsin. Wild caving trips may be offered or attended by individuals, but you will be on your own for non-commercial trips. For any wild caving trips, everyone needs to be aware of the White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocol in order to participate. 
The WSS will be sponsoring trips to the nearby show caves of Niagara Cave (see photo at left) near Harmony, Minnesotahttp://www.niagaracave.com/index.html), Crystal Lake Cave located five miles south of Dubuque, Iowa (http://www.crystallakecave.com/), and Mystery Cave in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park near Preston, Minnesota (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mystery_cave/index.html). A 9:15 welcome and weekend activity briefing on Saturday is required for all Hodag Celebration attendees. The WSS has also reserved a guided, discounted caving trip of Spook Cave, which will be offered at 9:30 AM on Saturday morning. The cost per person for ages 13 and up is $10, children ages 4 to 13 is $7, and children under 4 are free.
Alternative Hodag Activities: Spook Cave is only a 7-minute drive from McGregor, Iowa (see photo at right) and Pikes Peak State Park. McGregor was chosen one of the top ten most beautiful towns in Iowa (http://www.mcgreg-marq.org/). It features streets lined with 19th-century buildings, antique and specialty shops, and great restaurants. Being on the Mississippi River, it also features numerous hiking, biking, boating, and fishing opportunities, as well as Mississippi River boat tours, shopping, a winery, brewery, a river casino boat, and much more. Pikes Peak State Park offers one of the finest overlook views of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers (http://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks-Rec-Areas/Iowas-State-Parks/ParkDetails/ParkID/610141). It also features biking and hiking trails, a beautiful waterfall, effigy mounds, and picnic facilities with lots of nearby parking. Iowa State parks are also free to the general public for all visitors. Just three miles north of Marquette, Iowa on Hwy 76 and only a 12-minute ride from Spook Cave, is another unique area attraction, Effigy Mounds National Monument (https://www.nps.gov/efmo/planyourvisit/index.htm). Here the Natural Park Service preserves more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans. Numerous mounds are shaped like animals, including bears and birds. Other nearby attractions include Wyalusing State Park, Villa Louis Historic Site, the city of Prairie du Chien, the city of Marquette, Iowa, and much, much more.
51st Annual WSS Hodag Hunt Festival: We are hopeful you will be able to join us for yet another fun Hodag Hunt Festival weekend. Early registration for the event will save you money on both registration and camping fees. Look for our registration form on the WSS website at (http://www.wisconsincaves.org/) or in our WSS newsletters. Early registrations must be received no later than Wednesday, September 7th. Festival attendees are reminded to be on the lookout for the elusive Hodag. The captor of the Hodag will be given a finder’s prize at the auction. Remember the WSS caving motto: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.” Have a safe caving adventure, wherever the caving trail may lead you!

                For more info contact Kasey Fiske at  kasey.fiske@wisc.edu

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