El Malpais monument closes cave to protect hibernating bats

GRANTS, N.M. (AP) — Junction Cave at El Malpais National Monument is closed for the season.

Monument officials said Friday that the closure is expected to be in effect until April to ensure the bats that hibernate inside the cave over the winter months will not be disturbed.

Eric Weaver, the monument's branch chief of natural resources, says Junction Cave has the largest known hibernaculum in the monument for Townsend's big-eared bats. The species is of special concern in New Mexico.

He says human disturbance during hibernation can cause significant impacts to bats and may even result in the abandonment of the cave as a hibernaculum.

Big Skylight, Giant Ice, Four Windows and Xenolith caves remain accessible to cavers through the winter.