Gates installed on Alabama bat cave to protect habitat

October 23, 2021 GMT

ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) — Gates have been installed at the mouth of a cave in eastern Alabama to protect the habitat of two endangered species that live in the cavern, the state wildlife agency said.

Mined by the Confederacy during the Civil War for saltpeter, a component of gunpowder, Weaver Cave near Anniston is an important home for gray bats and tricolored bats, according to a release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The cave was purchased by the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust in 2020, and gates were installed to prevent people from entering using money from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The barriers are meant to keep out humans but protect the winged mammals, said Nick Sharp of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

“They don’t restrict air flow at all. The main entrance to Weaver is the one where almost all of the bats come in and out. The bats always come out near the top so that was left open to give them enough room so they could flow out and the bats do not get backed up behind it,” he said.

Humans have a long history in the cave, including an attempt by a one-time owner to use one room to raise chickens. The cave also was once designated as a bomb shelter because of its size.