Iowa to reopen Maquoketa Caves SP April 15
According to an article in the Quad City Times, Iowa DNR will be reopening the caves in Maquoketa Caves State Park effective April 15.
Visitors who wish to enter the caves will be screened, using a series of questions about their whereabouts and the clothing and gear they have brought before being issued a wristband, according to the article. Depending on the answers, visitors will either be admitted, be asked to self-administer disinfection, or denied. Groups can make arrangements in advance with park staff.
“Kudos to Sen. Bowman, Rep. Moore, and Iowa DNR officials for this common sense approach. It’s guided by good science, and balances protection of the bats with other legitimate needs. These include not only economic interests, but also the appreciation of nature by the public, including bats in their natural habitat – caves. The winter closure is appropriate, as bats should never be disturbed during hibernation,” said Peter Youngbaer, WNS Liaison for the National Speleological Society.
Wild caves on state and federal lands in Missouri have been closed to general visitation, and only open on a permit basis for research purposes since 2009-2010. The verified spread of the cave bat fungus is almost universally bat-to-bat. Such measures such as those at Maquoketa Caves are considered a preemptive, “just in case” action, since the fungal spores are invisible to the naked eye. The fungus is dormant during warm weather, doing most of its damage amongst hibernating colonies in winter.