Jan. 9, 2013 — Friday, Jan. 25, will be the kickoff of the 4th Annual Winter Adventure Weekend at Carter Caves State Resort Park, also known to Park Manager Chris Perry as “the best kept secret in Eastern Kentucky.”
When plans were released for this year's event, park officials were excited to announce that for the first time since the feared white nose syndrome became a concern, cavers are able to return back underground.
However, Perry wanted to clarify there will be no type of wildlife caving, for the bats sake; yet there will be both guided commercial (handrails and lights) and wild cave tours available. Cavers will be able to visit X and Cascade caves along with others, yet Bat, Salt Petre and Laurel caves are still closed for the winter.
2013 numbers indicate that there are currently 40,000 Indiana bats hibernating in one of three caves this winter on the Carter County park, with approximately 30,000 in Bat Cave alone. Yet numbers are significantly down since 1980 when more than 100,000 Indiana bats were in Bat Cave.
Carter Caves is hibernation for more than half of the Kentucky population of the Indiana bats, and due to the efforts of the staff at Carter Caves the white nose syndrome has not arrived at the park.
Coy Ainsley, interpretative specialist at Carter Caves, indicated even with all the efforts, which include but are not limited to, Lysol stepping pads for the soles of hikers' shoes and asking hikers not to bring in clothing worn in other caves, he believes it will eventually arrive here at Carter Caves since the largest majority of the syndrome is passed from bat to bat, which humans cannot control.
This large number of Indiana bats call Carter Caves home during November to April, and travel as far north as southern Michigan during summer months. Of course this is based on weather: the quicker it gets warmer, the quicker the bats wake up and leave hibernation.