"They're the most highly evolved mammal in the world," said caver Jacque Miley.
Eastern Pipistrelle bats are small, solitary and shy creatures. And they're the heartthrobs of some Valley cavers. Only about forty now call Grand Caverns their home, but that is soon to change.
"This new fence will not only protect the cave from anyone wanting to break in, but we're hoping to boost the bat population this year," said Miley. She is Vice President of B.A.T.S. Grotto, a conservation club based in Fredericksburg, VA.
Miley is one of nine volunteers who are making the entrances to Grand Caverns bat-friendly.
Park Manager Cyndi Miller explains, "The bats have room now to fly through. The lattice work we had up before had very small holes so the bats had to perch before they could leave."
Miller proudly oversees the nation's second-ranked show cave. Grand Caverns is the oldest, continuously operated cave in the U.S. and has hundreds of rare shield formations.
But the thousands of bats who roost at a Carlesbad, New Mexico cave helped it outrank this local treasure, but perhaps, not for long.
"Hopefully, we'll make this look like a nicer home for them," said Miley.
The $15,000 and four tons of steel that went into the fencing project will attract bats and detract vandals.
"We're doing this just to make sure this place stays safe forever. It's one of the best kept secrets of the Valley," said Miley.
Bats might not be cute, but they're vital to our ecosystem, eating insects and pollinating rainforests. And any attempt to hurt the cave dwellers could mean a year in prison or thousands of dollars in fines.
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Source: University of Texas’ report on Mammals of Texas contributed to this report.