November 17 marked the third annual bat count in Hancock Cave. Since White Nose Syndrome hit this cave in 2009, we’ve been visiting the same rooms each November to see if bats will return and winter in the cave. We only found two bats in 2010 and four in 2011.
This year Pete Hertl, Rob Harris, Mark Little, Ava Pope, and Jacob Jackson joined me for the tour of the rooms. It began in a disheartening manner with only one bat (a pip) counted as we traveled to the Grantham Room, You-Don’t-Know-Jack Pit, the Octopus Room, the Anastamoses Maze, Corn Cob Crawl, Hickory Dickory Pit, and TJ’s Trap. We played down the holes along the way to the Breakdown Staircase and found a little brown bat there.
Descending the Breakdown Staircase would’ve gone quickly, but Rob insisted on videotaping the descent (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-5WFRJZNSk&feature=youtu.be). Climbing around him added a new dimension to the obstacle course.
Then things got much better. We found four more bats along In the Pendants Hall, and one appeared to be a grey bat. Jacob, Rob, Pete, and half of Ava climbed up me and through the Comic Book Hole while everyone else laughed. Before the Toilet Bowls we found a little brown. Just above the Funnel Tunnel entrance we spotted a hanging bat that may have been a Northern myotis.
Hopefully there will be even more bats next year.