Background for Teachers - Texas Caves
Kickapoo Cavern State Park
On the Student Research Pages we tell the children to listen for "lots of birds" because over 230 species of birds make their homes in this region. Among them is the Golden Cheeked Warbler, which builds its nests from the bark of the ashe juniper. Texas A&M University currently conducts research on the Golden Cheeked Warbler within the state park.
Plenty of bats live at Kickapoo Cavern. On the Student Research Pages, we wanted Devil’s Sinkhole to get the limelight for bats since that’s its claim to fame, but after you give the sinkhole its time in the spotlight you can let the children know that over ½ a million Mexican free-tailed bats call Kickapoo home during the spring and summer months.
- Kickapoo Caverns State Park – video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXucJkmqN8w
Longhorn Cavern State Park
What's below ground at Longhorn Cavern State Park is nearly as neat as what’s above ground: many structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. The structures were created during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal period when the CCC put Texans to work building infrastructure statewide. Part of that program meant some fabulous architecture for our state parks! Check this site out for some info on the CCC's history in Texas:
- Longhorn Cavern State Park – video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WqL5xYii7g
Colorado Bend State Park
Discussing caves provides a perfect opportunity to talk about the important role bats play ecosystems. Unfortunately, a mysterious disease called "White Nose Syndrome" has hit the east coast hard and this will have an impact not only on bat populations, but on the ecosystems they help support. Scientists predict that it will someday make its way to Texas. The syndrome has already been found in Oklahoma so to help stem the spread some of the caves at Colorado Bend State Park are currently closed to cave crawling.
Scientists aren't exactly sure what causes White Nose Syndrome, which causes bats to get a white fungus most apparent near their nasal areas, but they suspect something from outside caves is being brought inside and infecting the bats. Bats have evolved over thousands of years to live in damp cave environments where fungus also lives, but when White Nose Syndrome attacks bats fungus takes them over while their immune systems are shut down for hibernation. Learn more by watching this fascinating video:
- Colorado Bend State Park – video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEynZZ3JJaE
Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area
Tourists wanting to see the impressive sight of 3-4 million bats streaming out of Devil’s Sinkhole each evening in the spring and summer board a bus near Rocksprings. Why can’t folks just drive directly to the cave? Bussing in tourists helps keep the region pristine.
Scientists who have gone down into the cave estimate that 300 bats per square foot reside there. Devil's Sinkhole is one of the deepest bat caves in the state, which is why so many of the flying mammals can squeeze into this space.
- Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area – video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDP8FtMsQ3M