The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 51 Number 1: 47-51 - June 1989

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Cave Conservation: Special Problems of Bats
Gary F. McCracken


Ignorance as to the real status of populations of almost all bat species is a major problem for their conservation. This ignorance is reflected in the IUCN "red list" of threatened species, which is both minimalist and biased. The recent proposition that we should construct "green lists" of species known to be secure, rather than red lists, is extended to bats. Available information regarding the status of the five species of North American bats listed as endangered is reviewed, and these species are used to illustrate major problems encountered by bat populations. All of these species rely on cave roosts. Their habit of roosting in large aggregations during hibernation and/or reproduction make these and other cave dwelling bats particularly vulnerable to disturbances which can reduce populations. Types of disturbances and their likely effects are discussed. The long-life spans and low reproductive rates of bats mandate that they will recover slowly following population reductions. Habitat alteration and destruction outside of roosts and poisoning from pesticides also have impacted negatively on bat populations; however, roost site disturbance and habitat destruction have probably had much greater negative effects than has pesticide poisoning. Because disturbance within their cave roosts is a major problem in bat conservation, constructing lists of "green caves" (those which can be visited) and "red caves" (those which must be avoided) is encouraged. Criteria for constructing these lists of caves are discussed.

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