MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency found more than 85,000 bats inside a cave in Cocke County.
Wildlife surveys mangers and a Southeastern Cave Conservancy representative inspected Rattlin’ Pit cave which is owned by Newport Utilities.
Around 85,955 hibernating gray bats were found with four tri-colored bats and two big brown bats. The cave is considered a Tier 1 priority gray bat hibernaculum due to the amount of bats found.
The cave is now the fourth largest gray bat hibernaculum–or place where a creature seeks refuge– in the state.
“The gray bat population in Tennessee is now estimated at 1.2 million, which is equal to the rough population estimate for their entire range when they were first listed as an endangered species,” said TWRA Wildlife Surveys Manager Chris Ogle.
Gray bats are state and federally endangered. The species was almost de-listed until the discovery of White Nosed Syndrome. TWRA says the species is not greatly impacted by the syndrome.
Officials were not able to inspect the entire cave due to the bats waking up from their sleep. The cave will most likely be resurveyed every two years in the winter and officials will do an emergence count in the summer.
According to TWRA, bats help the ecosystem with pollination and pest control. The state has 16 bat species and all of the bats feed “almost exclusively on insects.”
A bat may eat more than 50 percent of its own body weight in insects each night, which can total around 3,000 insects daily, according to the agency.