- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Owners of a brewery that’s being built around a cave in Lincoln have altered plans after finding federally protected bats in the tunnels.

The Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1KsQCQb ) reports that Blue Blood Brewing still intends to offer tours and hold events inside Robbers Cave, but that a section will be off-limits because of the northern long-eared bat’s presence.

The species, present in 38 states, is common. But it’s also under attack by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease.

The company is building a 12,000-square-foot brewery, restaurant and taproom around the cave. With its April opening approaching, owner Brian Podwinski sought an expert to visit the 500 feet of tunnels.

“We wanted to know, what bats do we have and what do we do with them?” Podwinski said. “We wanted to know exactly what we are dealing with.”

The tunnels were originally excavated for storage, but they were used as a tourist attraction for decades.

Cliff Lemen, a retired bat biologist who visited the cave in January, said the cave had been closed for years, but apparently not tight enough to keep out the bats, which were named a federally threatened species last year.

“Bats are pretty good at getting in small places,” he said. “And in general, the northern long-eared bat is fairly secretive. They like to get in cracks and crevasses.”

The bats numbers have dropped dramatically since the disease’s symptoms were first discovered in 2006.

“We had to take immediate actions to protect the bats in that cave,” said Bob Harms, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Harms said it’s hard to estimate how many of the bats are in the cave, but that one is enough of a concern to the agency.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com


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