Hoosier National Forest caves will reopen to public

From Local Sources

The Hoosier National Forest — which includes 200,000 acres in nine southern Indiana counties — has reduced the year-round closure of its caves to a seasonal closure.

The caves will be open to the public May 1 through Aug. 31 each year; they will be closed Sept. 1 through April 30 in an effort to protect hibernating bat populations.

The year-round closure came in 2009 as part of an effort to combat the spread of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease first observed in 2006 that has killed millions of bats in the U.S. and Canada.

While the disease is still a serious issue, Hoosier National Forest biologists have determined that since the fungus has now spread throughout Indiana, neighboring states and beyond, a year-round closure of caves to the public is not an effective means of protecting bat populations at the forest.

Anyone who violates the seasonal closure may be fined up to $5,000 or face imprisonment of no more than six months.

All cave explorers are asked to remember proper cave etiquette and safety.

Caves are inherently dangerous environments, with many hazards people may not be accustomed to dealing with. Never go caving alone; tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return; dress in layers of clothing and wear sturdy shoes; carry appropriate equipment, including multiple light sources and a first aid kit; and don’t forget food and water.

The seasonal cave closure is in addition to other provisions in the Federal Code of Regulations and other Forest Orders.

To view all Forest Orders for the Hoosier National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/hoosier/alerts-notices.

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