Friday, June 22, 2012

TNC is going Underground in the Outback

     Lance Hedges, Conservation Director of The Nature Conservancy of Kansas, expresses a happy face in a cave in the Red Hills of South-central Kansas.  Most of the caves of Kansas are located in the gypsum formations of Barber and Comanche counties.  The uniqueness of these features and the wildlife they harbor add to the importance of the area to the conservancy as well as the ranchers of the Red Hills.  In a recent trip, several TNC members along with local landowners experienced the thrill of going underground.    This is a special privilege as nearly all the caves in Kansas are on private land and have been kept in relatively good and safe condition because of being protected from having too much human use.  
     Among the half dozen or so bat species which frequent the Red Hills cave areas the Pallid Bat I'm holding is among the most fascinating.  It has a particularly interesting feeding habit of alighting on the ground at night to chase down scorpions, centipedes and ground beetles.  Occasionally using a cave or two, these light colored bats prefer to squeeze into cracks in canyon walls.  There are 17 known species of bats in Kansas and several are known only from the Red Hills region.  Bats are important indicators of a healthy environment and are nature's natural insect control agents.

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