JASPER, Ind. (AP) — Southern Indiana’s sprawling Hoosier National Forest is ending the year-round cave closures officials imposed nearly a decade ago to protect hibernating bats from a deadly disease.
The policy barring the public from caves in the 200,000-acre (81,000-hectare) national forest took effect in 2009 to combat the spread of white-nose syndrome. That fungal disease has killed millions of bats in the U.S. and Canada.
But The (Jasper) Herald reports officials announced Thursday that the national forest’s caves will now be open to the public May 1 through Aug. 31 each year and closed Sept. 1 through April 30.
While the fungal disease remains a serious issue, biologists determined that since it has spread throughout Indiana, neighboring states and beyond, closing the caves year-round wasn’t an effective means of protecting the bats.