Bat Week Events will be held at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday, October 30, 2015 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina.
What better time than on Halloween Eve to learn all about the 12 species of bats found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the important role they play in maintaining our ecological balance. Park Rangers will be available at hands-on information stations for fun and educational activities about bats and their importance to our world and the current threat of white-nose syndrome to bats in the National Park and throughout the U.S.
“We first confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome in the park in 2010,” said National Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver, “The impact has been devastating. We estimate that some of our cave-dwelling bat populations have already declined by 80% and we are doing everything we can to both slow the spread of the disease and protect the remaining animals by closing caves and areas near caves to the public.”
Whiteoak Sink Area Closed Until Late Spring 2015
All of the Parks 16 caves were closed to the public in 2009 and in September 2015 the Whiteoak Sink area was closed to public. The area may reopen in late spring 2015 depending on the results of Park scientists findings as they monitor the site throughout the winter hibernation period to help develop a plan to deal with white-nose syndrome. More than 5.7 million bats in the United States have died leaving more than 40% of the bat species at risk or endangered.
Most hikers access Whiteoak Sink via Schoolhouse Gap Trail near Cades Cove. The closure includes the area between Cades Cove and Townsend within Schoolhouse Gap Trail and Turkeypen Ridge Trail west to the National Park boundary. Turkeypen Ridge and Schoolhouse Gap trails will remain open.
- Scientists estimate that a single bat can eat between 3,000 to 6,000 insects (mosquitoes, moths, and beetles) nightly.
- Humans are not affected by white-nose syndrome; the fungus requires a cold body temp to survive. However, never touch or handle a bat. Bats are the only mammal species in the Smoky Mountains that have tested positive for rabies.
- For more information on bats in the Smokies, visit GSMNP Cave Bats in Crisis.