War Eagle Cavern – Bats
War Eagle Cavern – Bats
Many creatures live in the darkness of the cavern. Blind cray fish – even a big black snake hangs out at the entrance hoping for a bat to fly by. By far the most unusual creature is a huge population of eastern pipestrelle or grey BATS! War Eagle Cavern is home to over 75,000 bats (just an estimate – anyone want to try to count them??). In fact, before War Eagle Cavern became a show cave in the 1970s, it was known to locals as “Bat Cave”, as it was virtually guaranteed that bats would be encountered on every trip!
These amazing creatures are a highlight of the tour of the cavern. The Eastern Pipestrelle Bats (little brown bats) roost by hanging upside down on the ceiling, usually just inches from our heads. They are usually sleeping by themselves during the day in the summer, and hibernate alone from Fall to Spring. The only time we don’t see bats on every tour is in the heart of the summer, when it is warm outside and the bats can roost in the trees. But don’t be surprised to spot several during stormy weather! These little round “chicken nuggets” (one child’s description) spend their entire lives in or near our natural wonder of the Ozarks – breeding in the fall, hibernating in the winter, having their babies in the spring, teaching those babies to fly in the early summer, and seeking shelter during summer storms.
War Eagle Cavern on Beaver Lake is also home to the Gray Bat, currently on the endangered species watch list. Unlike the eastern pipestrelle bat, the gray bat is a colonial bat. During the spring, over 30,000 females roost in dense clusters in maternity colonies, as each mother bat gives birth to a single baby – called a “pup”. They stay in the roost until their babies are old enough to fly. For a period of a week or so towards the end of June, the mama bats literally “teach” their young to fly, using the long straight passageways inside the cavern as a safe area for little bats to learn sonarlocation for nighttime navigation. In fact, it is for this very reason that we do not conduct Spelunker Tours until after mid-July.
Your family or group will get up close and personal to these elusive creatures, as our guides reveal many fascinating details about both the eastern pipestrelle and the gray bat species that inhabit the cavern. As you make your way through this amazing multi-story gem of nature with its wide, level pathways meandering along an active flowing stream, don’t be surprised if you feel the whish of a bat flying by, or our guide warning you not to get too close to a little guy hanging so near!
Local folks love our bats, as they eat a large percentage of the mosquito population all around Beaver Lake. The average bat eats half their weight in mosquitoes each night, traveling up to twenty miles in search of food, and returning to the cavern by early morning. Meet a bat on our tour, and learn all about this small, furry creature!