Persistent human disturbance is a major cause for the decline in populations of many cave-dwelling bats and other sensitive cave-obligate organisms. Cave gating has been used to eliminate human disturbance, but few studies have assessed directly the impact of such management activities on resident bats. In northeastern Oklahoma, USA, 25 entrances of caves inhabited by two endangered species and one endangered subspecies of bats are protected from human entry with internal gates. Because cave gates may impede ingress and egress of bats at caves, we evaluated the impacts of internal gates before and after their construction at six colonies of endangered gray bats (Myotis grisescens) from 1981 to 2001. No caves were abandoned by gray bats after the construction of internal gates; in fact, total numbers of gray bats using the six caves increased from 60,130 in 1981 to 70,640 in 2001. Two caves harbored more gray bats after gating, and three caves had no change in gray bat numbers after gating. We also compared initiations of emergences at three gated and three open-passage caves in June and July 19992000. No differences in timing of initiation of emergence were found between colonies in gated versus open-passage caves. Our results support the use of internal gates to protect and thereby enhance recovery of colonies of endangered gray bats. Additional research is encouraged to confirm that our observations on gray bats are generally applicable to other species of cave-dwelling bats.
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