Craig Stihler's message about closing West Virginia caves

The message below was sent to Bob Hoke by Craig Stihler in response to Hoke's request for a list of West Virginia caves that the DNR wants closed.  When Criag supplies the official list it will be put on the VAR Limited Access Cave List site ( and a link will be put on the site.  This message has been included here with Craig's permission.


I have been spending a lot of time answering email about caves and white nose.  We are going to come out with a joint news release from the WVDNR and US Fish and Wildlife Service and we are still trying to figure out how to deal with this.  I think the bottom line will be that important bat caves will be closed (mostly Indiana and Virginia big-ear caves and a few other caves with large numbers of more common bats).  Several of these are already closed all or part of the year.  The total number of caves is probably around 40, but I haven't added them up.  I don't want to put out a list of caves too soon - we sent letters to the owners this Monday and I want to give them time to respond.  Then, whether they are officially closed or not we will ask people to avoid them. I will also send you the list.

I don't plan to close all of Pendleton County (not that I could), but I would like to encourage people to not go there if there are other options. There are too many important bats caves and especially for big-ears.  Once it gets in a big-ear cave we can probably assume it will spread throughout the population.  These bats all mix together in the winter.  Also, I think people need to be extra vigilant in cleaning clothing and gear when going to Pendleton County, especially if they have been caving north of WV.  The USFWS is working on a protocol for disinfecting gear - one that is being discussed is to wash gear as well as possible and then spray it with Formula 409.  It should dry before going in the cave to avoid impacts on invertebrates, etc. 

I would also encourage people that have been caving in NY or VT not to use their gear here or at least use a new pair of boots and maybe overalls.  In general folks should clean all gear when going from one cave to another, especially if you have been to areas north of here. However, we still need to discuss this in-house and between agencies before we send anything out. 

There is already a lot of confusion.    Until we have an official statement, the general message is stay out of caves that have Indiana bats or Virginia big-eared bats even if they are officially open part of the year, stay out of caves with a large number of bats (right now I am using 100 pip or 500 little browns to be a lot, but this is not the "official" definition), and clean and disinfect gear (including coveralls and boots) between caves, especially if you have been out of state or are heading to Pendleton Co.

I will keep you posted and appreciate any help you can provide in hosting the cave list - it will also be on the USFWS white nose web page. 

We are trying to be proactive and hope that whatever we do will keep white nose out of WV, but also hope we learn enough to better control this thing and can refine our tactics. We really don't know much at this time and certainly don't want to screw up by doing nothing. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Hoke []
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2008 1:17 AM
To: Craig Stihler
Subject: Request for list of caves to be closed


The caving community is very anxious to see the list of caves that you  are requesting be closed to protect them from White Nose Syndrome. There are currently rumors that you are requesting that all Pendleton County caves be closed and a few cavers are saying that all West Virginia caves will be closed.

The Virginia Region of the NSS has an on-line Limited Access Cave List that I maintain.  The Region includes West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and small parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  The list is at

I've already added all the caves that I know are now closed to the list:  
   Elkhorn Mountain (Grant County)
   Boar Hole (partial closure) (Greenbrier County)
   The Portal (Greenbrier County)
   Trout, Hamilton, and New Trout Caves (Pendleton County)
   Sinnitt-Thorn Mountain Cave (Pendleton County)

If you can send me the list of caves that you would like closed I'll add them to the list (even if the landowners don't close them officially).

If it's ok with you I'd also like to send the list to several caving e-mail lists.  Doing so should help quell some of the rumors that are flying around.


Bob Hoke

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This page last updated or verified on February 14, 2008