Yesterday was the first time I ever went caving. It was a blast and I got some great iNat observations but I feel sick to my stomach knowing I was part of a group that disturbed hibernating bats. This cave is partially fully commercially developed and partially accessible through their guided wild cave tours.
Halfway through the crawl, we got to what the guide called the “critter room,” so named because it’s where bats hibernate. I only saw one bat (a tricolored bat) but the guide said his boss had photographed gray bats and little brown bats in this room. That’s three federally threatened species in one room in one cave, and here I was traipsing around during hibernation! When I expressed concern, the guide (incorrectly) reassured me that they don’t hibernate and that we weren’t bothering them because “they move around the cave all the time.” He had no clue that they’re waking up before winter and likely starving.
I’m not upset with this tour guide because he obviously didn’t know better, but I’m wondering what to do with this information. I don’t know if the USFWS would close a commercially developed cave and don’t know that it would be necessary. And I’m also wondering if there are more responsible ways that I can explore “wild” caves. Disturbing wildlife is never my intent so I don’t know if caving just needs to be a hobby that’s off the table for me.
Does anyone have any thoughts or experiences?