SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A cave system in southern Illinois closed more than a decade ago will reopen to the public this month.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced this week that Illinois Caverns in Monroe County will reopen on Wednesday.
Officials closed the cave in 2010 as a precaution for bats who live there due to the spread of a fatal disease called White-nose Syndrome.
The disease, known as WNS, is named after the white fungus found on the muzzle, ears and wings of infected bats.
White-nose Syndrome cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals, but officials feared that humans exploring caves could spread it from one location to another, endangering more bats.
Joe Kath is the department’s Endangered Species Program manager. He says the disease’s prevalence in bats hibernating within Illinois Caverns has been relatively low since the closure compared to other locations in the state.
″“The caverns – one of the state’s scenic wonders – attracted visitors from across the state, which is why the decision was made to close them,” Kath said. “Our biologists felt that proactively closing Illinois Caverns, and other state-managed caves across the state, was the best option to protect the state’s bat population from (White-nose Syndrome).”
Illinois Caverns will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and seasonally from April through October.