District recreation officials announced today Boulder Cave Recreational Area and Clear Lake Day Use will be closed for the season, Saturday, September 8th.

Boulder Cave Trail and the cave close annually October 1st to all users allowing bats an opportunity to settle in for the winter.  “It is critically important that bats have an opportunity to roost without being displaced by humans visiting the cave”, said Joan St. Hilaire, District Wildlife Biologist.  “Conserving body fat for energy is very important to a bat’s survival during hibernation.  Any disturbance during this period can be deadly to bats in the cave.”

To insure bats have a safe sanctuary, away from human contact, construction crews and specialist will construct bat gates inside the cave.  For the entire week of Monday, September 10th through Friday, September 14th, crews and volunteers will be moving steel beams and installing gates in a large inner chamber used by bats throughout the year.

“Boulder Cave is a highly rated destination for visitors from around the country and is particularly known for its uniqueness.  An estimated forty thousand visitors walk and hike in and around Boulder Cave beginning in April and ending the first of October,” said Doug Jenkins, Visitor Services Specialists for the Naches Ranger District.

Another vitally important concern for bat protection is a deadly fungus known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS) which has been killing millions of bats in the east.  Even though WNS has not reached the northwest it has spread west of the Mississippi.  Measures are being taken across the country to protect bat populations by placing gates on mines and cave entrances to restrict human encroachments.

The spread of the fungus is from bat to bat and although it is not hazardous to humans it is highly suspected fungus spores on human clothing have contaminated caves eventually attacking roosting bats.

“It’s extremely important that we take every measure possible to protect the few bats using Boulder Cave from even the remote possibility of coming in contact with this deadly disease.  A big part of that is restricting access to roosting areas and limiting the time visitors can visit the cave,” said Jacqueline Beidl Naches Ranger District Recreation Assistant.