MORRISTOWN, TN – Nearly 86,000 bats, deemed in the state and federally as endangered species, were found hibernating in an east Tennessee cave, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
TWRA wildlife survey managers and a representative from the Southeastern Cave Conservancy explored a cave known as Rattlin’ Pit in Cocke County.
Inside the cave, surveyors found about 85,955 hibernating Gray bats, along with four tri-colored bats and two big brown Bats.
“The gray bat population in Tennessee is now estimated at 1.2 million, which is equal to the rough population estimate for their entire range when they were first listed as an endangered species,” said Chris Ogle, wildlife surveyor.
Surveyors said since the cave has a large number of gray bats, it’s now considered the fourth largest gray bat hibernaculum in Tennessee.
Ogle said since the bats were waking up so quickly, they did not explore the cave thoroughly. Surveyors plan on exploring the cave again in the winter every two years and to do an emergence count in the summer.
Experts report recoveries from White Nosed Syndrome bands of bats at the Pearson Cave in Hawkins County as well as some in Virginia.
The TWRA says Tennessee is home to 16 bat species and all feed mostly on insects. Experts say bats “provide invaluable services to humans and natural ecosystems through pollination and pest control.”
According to experts, bats eat more than 50% of its own body weight in insects each night. That’s about 3,000 or more insects.
Rattlin’ Pit is owned by Newport Utilities.