Hill Country bat cave closes early due to pesticide incident and the need to rethink current plans

The Eckert James River Bat Cave in Mason, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy, is said to be one of the top 5 bat places to visit during the summer and has one of the largest bat populations world. The season usually runs from around May, depending on when the bats arrive, until October. This summer, however, the season was cut short, closing on August 8. The closure is due, in part, to pesticides being sprayed on the evening of June 29 at the neighboring game hunting retreat.

The Star S Ranch is responsible for spraying the pesticides and their property line is approximately 200 feet from the bat cave’s entrance. It was reported that the pesticide, called Permethrin, was sprayed while pregnant women, children, and babies were present at the cave observing the bats. The ranch has since then said that they recognize that this incident was a mistake.

Permethrin is considered by many as safe for humans, many pets, and livestock. It is also used for flea collars, structures, and clothing to guard against insects. After speaking with The Nature Conservancy, it was learned that the chemical hasn’t extensively been tested on bats so it can not be determined if the pesticide can have negative consequences but they are concerned about continued exposure of Permethrin to the bats.

The recent pesticide incident is not the only reason the Eckert James River Bat Cave was closed early to the public this summer. Associate Director of Marketing and Communications, Vanessa Martin, says that recently, a drone camera was flown near the cave’s entrance while the bats were emerging and this could have become catastrophic for the bats and visitors, alike. Martin says that they are taking this time to rethink their public access plan and monitoring plan. She added that they haven’t changed much since the 90’s, when they acquired the land, and have found that now is the time to take a look at how they are protecting the bats and the humans. They want to be sure that they are doing everything they can to protect the bats and visitors.

The Eckert James River Bat Cave isn’t the only preserve that The Nature Conservancy watches over. They currently own 38 preserves across the state of Texas, almost a million acres. They also partner with many different Texas agencies dedicated to the well being of animals.

As for the recent spraying of pesticides, which came too close to the preserve and its visitors, an investigation is currently underway by the Texas Department of Agriculture and is believed that it may be complete in September.

Martin describes Mason’s Eckert James River Bat Cave as an invigorating experience. Visitors experience an adventure from start to finish. For more information about The Nature Conservatory or the Eckert James River Bat Cave, visit their website at nature.org.