Nickajack Cave provides prime real estate for endangered gray bat
We all know the saying about real estate: "location, location, location."
Every year TVA and TWRA count the number of bats at Nickajack Cave. Fewer than 5% of caves are suitable for the gray bat, so the unique structure of Nickajack Cave is one TVA and TWRA must preserve.
High humidity around 100%, an average temperature between 55 and 77, and a high ceiling to trap heat, make the cave a prime location for the bat to birth it's pups. And June is birthing month, which means it's time for a head count.
Before storms on Wednesday night, TVA and TWRA counted the bats two different ways, actual counting,
"Break the cave mouth up into sections, we're going to have people stationed at each section, and they will count the bats as they are coming out," says TVA Zoologist Liz Hamrick.
Again, also using infrared video. Hamrick says the goal of counting manually is to compare this same technique from previous years. The second technique, uses thermal infrared video. A built in software program automatically counts the bats.
"The infrared camera and software in comparison to the manual counts are surprisingly similar," says Hamrick.
TWRA Manager Daniel Istvanko says the gray bat can be found at Nickajack Cave from March through August. June and July is the best time to watch the bats, as Mom is out foraging for food.
"In excess of 25 miles one distance, so over 50 miles a night foraging would be a very fair estimate," states Istvanko.
Istvanko states this is one of the exciting researches that they can share with the public. He shares a few reminders though.
"No flash photography, no bright lights, things like that, try to minimize your disturbance, and just enjoy the show," adds Istvanko.
You can view the nightly bat show from the 1,000 foot boardwalk in front of the cave through the end of August. TVA Scott Fiedler tells Channel 3, 97,000 bats were counted on Wednesday night. This is 20,000 more than the summer count in 2018.
Have a weather related story idea? Feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.