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Barring people for the sake of bats
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SOCIAL CIRCLE — If you build it, they won’t come.

People, that is.

That’s the motive behind an extreme conservation method that will hopefully bring a maternity colony of federally endangered gray bats back to a northwest Georgia cave.

The site outside Ringgold on Chickamauga Creek has been used by Native Americans, early settlers, wildlife and now vandals. The most recent set of visitors has meant trouble for the sensitive bats. The cave is Georgia’s only known maternity colony of gray bats (Myotis grisescens).

Enter the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which awarded a "partners" grant that made it possible for the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division to build the gate at the cave entrance, working with the landowner, who requested help. While considered a conservation method of last resort, the gate will bar people from entering the Catoosa County cave and disturbing the bats. The cave is not a site cavers commonly use.

"Generally we prefer to use signs or fence a cave, but this location was just too accessible for these to be of much use," said project leader Trina Morris, a wildlife biologist with the division’s Nongame Conservation Section.

A team of volunteers, many of them Wildlife Resources Division staff, finished the gate by mid-May. Morris will soon do checks to see if the gray bats have returned, signaling that what was once a vibrant colony is a possibility again, this time protected by bars of steel.

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