The sad thing is, Cavers, the people who care most about caves have been found to be the only ones abiding by the closures. A recent issue arose when DNR personnel found severe damage and vandalism to a cave...vandalism that MAY have been caught had cavers been regularly visiting the cave.
TheGorge, I'm not suggesting you're planning anything stupid. It's just the caving accident reports show that most "incidences" occur when people were unprepared and under-equipped. Cavers always carry multiple light sources & heat packets. They leave word with someone on the surface where they are going and when they are coming back. They are dressed for conditions that can cause hypothermia. The often cave in groups of 4 or more. So that if someone becomes stuck or injured one person can stay to care for that person, while two head back to the surface. Most cave accidents occur from people skipping one or more of these steps.
One of my favorite caving stories was finding a couple of college kids who had been smoking pot and couldn't find their "string" to lead them out of the cave. I took them back to the surface...never telling them that their sting was tucked in my pocket, because I thought it was trashed left behind (Seriously, don't use string to go into a cave...and don't smoke pot in a cave!)
We have alot of caves here in southern Indiana due to our limestone, sandstone rock below the ground. Tons of sink holes all over the country as well. Most are one private ground. I have been in 40-50 myself over time with a couple of diff. clubs. Most are closed to the public now because of the disease that is spreading in the bats as they think it might be somehow, transmitted by human contact to the caves. Nobody knows the answers yet. Its a shame, cause some of these caves have some pretty nice formations in them as well..some are very very old with names and dates to mid 1800's in them. One has a clay potter's area in it where they used to dig clay and make pottery even. Hate to see the demise of the bats as they are nature's answer to mosquito control. We still have lots of bats in the spring summer and fall however, so maybe they will survive. Hope so..good luck in your caving endevours and be safe.
White nose syndrome is bad and getting worse, and still spreading southward. It was found in Alabama last year and most public caves are closed or partially closed. When we do water quality testing at Russel Cave National Monument, we have to wear a tyvek suits and decontaminate before we leave the cave. Even after the decon, we still cannot wear those clothes anywhere else.
White nose is really bad and I hope that they get a handle on it, as I miss caving as well. There are lots of hidden spots in NE Bama, but my favorite holes are around Pigeon Mtn in GA.
I hate thinking that I have found some special place untouched by man....then I see beer cans and trash and I get sad....
Actually they do know the answer. Bat-to-Bat transmission is the primary cause of WNS. Proof of this is in Missouri. The first recorded case of WNS was found on a Tricolor Bat (aka, Pipistrille Bat) that had been captured and banded in Tennessee the year before.
That incident caused the immediate closure of state owned caves in Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. Which really makes no sense and debunks the human transmission blame: One bat jumped 3 states and deposited WNS in a cave that was already closed to human traffic.
Earlier this month WNS was found in a Kentucky cave that has been gated and closed for decades. It was found by a scientific team specifically looking for the disease within the boundaries of Mammoth Cave National Park (This cave is not physically connected to Mammoth.).
It's just easier for the government to LOOK like they're doing something meaningful by closing caves...except they don't close tourist caves that bring in money.
So having said alllllll that, there is a risk of human transmission of the disease. However, there are proven decontamination protocols that, when followed, kill the WNS spores.
As a former board member of the Karst Conservancy of Illinois, we had decon requirements, plus a dedicated boot policy for our caves. In other words, if you wanted to enter cave "A," you had to have a pair of boots that you agreed would only be worn in cave "A." If you wanted to visit cave "B," then decon your gear and buy a second pair of boots.