Time out with Pittsfield cave-explore...

Time out with Pittsfield cave-explorer Michael Telladira

There are 28 comments on the Berkshire Eagle story from Mar 7, 2010, titled Time out with Pittsfield cave-explorer Michael Telladira. In it, Berkshire Eagle reports that:

Michael Telladira knows a Berkshire landscape few have ever seen. It lies beneath the one most of us experience every day.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Berkshire Eagle.

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Nick

United States

#1 Mar 7, 2010
How do we get in touch with Berkshire County Cavers if we are interested in getting involved in caving?
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#2 Mar 7, 2010
Holy cow, Batman!

Since: Jun 08

Mechanicville, NY

#3 Mar 7, 2010
I heard there are caves in Cheshire,Ma anybody know of these caves and if so have they been explored?
n1ycw

East Otis, MA

#4 Mar 7, 2010
not sure if mike is aware of Clay Perry who wrote many books on cave exploring.. Right here in berkshire county He was my grandfather and did may cave exporations!!

Since: Mar 10

Location hidden

#5 Mar 7, 2010
Describing Mr. Telladira as an all-purpose "citizen-scientist" belittles the legitimate community of wildlife biologists who have each invested years of disciplined study before earning their degrees. In fact, most of his statements about endangered bats are erroneous or misleading. Moreover, his pitch appears blatantly self-serving — attempting to thwart government moves to temporarily close caves to the public, where bats are known to hibernate. The manner in which "White-Nose Syndrome" has spread - sometimes hopping over several states (possibly, even continents)— strongly suggests that human exploration & recreation may have unwittingly contributed to spreading this deadly disease. Biologists have found traces of the fungus on their own clothing & equipment as well as on the gear of amateur "cavers" who had also visited infected sites. Because ordinary "home" methods are unreliable & ineffective in assuring complete removal of the fungus, it's irresponsible to suggest that caving enthusiasts would be willing and able self-police the level of hygiene required to prevent further spread of the fungus.

When people think of "hibernation" they typically conjure-up images of bears in deep, undisturbed slumber throughout the long, cold winter. Bat hibernation is actually quite different from that, since bats "sleep" fitfully, & awaken from slumber periodically during winter, to obtain water. Healthy bats have sufficient energy reserves to withstand a few such awakenings throughout their hibernation, but the fungus infection appears to cause them to awaken more frequently — depleting their meager fat reserves & causing them to starve to death. Even without the presence of this fungus, bats can be easily disturbed during hibernation — causing extra, life-threatening fat burning. In fact, higher bat-mortalities during winter, have been previously observed in caves that are popular with "citizen-scientists" like Mr. Telladira.

Bats don't have the same emotional appeal to ordinary folk as roly-poly bears do; nevertheless — for thousands of years — bats have played a critical role in keeping insect populations in check, thus limiting damage to crops & the spread of deadly diseases to livestock & humans. This rapid, massive die-off of bats has never been documented in another species, & has reduced the population of affected bats to less than five percent of what it was just a few years ago. Claiming that surviving bat populations are "stabilizing" is just not true; if citizen-scientists are observing far-fewer dead bats this winter, it's only because so few of them have survived — out of the approximately one-million that have already died! If they are to be saved from complete extinction, it will require the support of the public along with the efforts of scientists. While proposed cave-closings will be a temporary inconvenience to hundreds of hobbyists, it also offers a reasonable prospect of limiting further losses to these nearly-extinct bat populations, & the challenges that extinction or slow recovery will present to our agriculture & health in the future!

Since: May 08

Queensbury, NY

#6 Mar 8, 2010
Aahhh yes,I have fond memories of exploring the "virgin passage",but I have only been in a few caves!
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#7 Mar 8, 2010
Deltaman wrote:
The manner in which "White-Nose Syndrome" has spread - sometimes hopping over several states (possibly, even continents)— strongly suggests that human exploration & recreation may have unwittingly contributed to spreading this deadly disease.
It is quite a leap -- and highly unscientific -- simply to assume that just because humans explore caves that humans may also "have unwittingly contributed to spreading this deadly disease".
Where's the evidence that humans play any sort of role in this any more than any other animal that might visit a cave?
Rats and mice explore caves and so too do insects.
Bats themsleves fly all over and could be passing it to other bats all over the world.
The actual cause of the bat malady could be almost anything but to place the blame on humans is incredibly premature especially when the evidence is so weak.

Since: Mar 10

Location hidden

#9 Mar 8, 2010
@ "HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC" — Whether deliberate or thru poor reading skills, you have ignored what I described as evidence of a possible human role in spreading the "White Nose" fungus. Biologists have been studying cave ecosystems for years, the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome hadn't been found in North America prior to 4 years ago, yet its DNA closely matches that of cold-loving fungi that HAVE been found in European caves & Antarctica. Since bats have inhabited North America for centuries, it's likely that the chance pollination of caves by "rats, mice & insects" would have already occurred — with rapid, deadly consequence — long ago. Within their respective ranges, bats mingle freely, and don't always return to the same cave to hibernate. Therefore, scientists do believe that infected bats are a big contributor to spreading the fungus— within the range of that species. However, that means of spreading an infection creates a tell-tale pattern — like an ink stain on blotter paper — & doesn't account for the fact that the fungus has "jumped" over several states, as it migrated away from the northeast, & then begins the more-characteristic "ink stain" spread, as it establishes itself in new locations.

By now, there's little dispute that all North American species of hibernating bats are gravely imperiled & some species may already have passed the tipping-point towards extinction. Meanwhile, populations of night-flying insects (chiefly moths & mosquitos) are surging in areas where bat populations have been decimated — requiring increased use of risky chemical means to protect crops, livestock & humans from damage or infection. Members of some bat species live nearly 20 years and they have few natural predators, so they reproduce slowly — typically a single offspring annually. This means, even if bat die-off could be stopped in it tracks today, it will still take decades for surviving bat populations to recover to the same numbers as just four years ago.

Scientists now understand "White Nose Syndrome" well-enough to speak in "probabilities" about it; waiting additional years for scientific "certainties" before acting, will likely mean that there will no longer be any bats to save. When viewed through the prism of science, environmental matters can appear quite complicated to the average person, so they become easy targets for other people attempting to steer public policy in some direction which benefits them personally, by misusing the "F.U.D." factor.

In very simple terms, a relatively small (but loud) number of recreational cave explorers in the USA, are fighting against any disruption to their hobby by closings of known "bat caves" for a few years, to slow the spread of this disease & give surviving bats better odds for recovery. Some are even raising money to buy caves in order to remove them from government jurisdiction. Contrary to this minority of self-anointed "citizen scientists" no respected members of the real scientific community are advocating that these caves should remain open to the public while bat populations are being threatened with extinction.

I'm personally hopeful that this will be one instance where self-serving ignorance won't win out over public indifference!
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#10 Mar 8, 2010
What you are stipulating is all circumstantial evidence.
There is simply too much that is not understood and you are taking the easy way out by blaming a few spelunkers.
Plus, I would not be so quick to claim doom and gloom.
With the increase of populations of bat food, my guess is there will be a resurgence in bats that have resistence to the fungi and nature will achieve its own balance in due course.
You have no proof whatsoever that humans have anything to do with this.
Also, are you claiming there have never been similar die-offs in bat populaces in past history?
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#11 Mar 8, 2010
The hysterical scientists you quote sound amazingly like the doomsayers hysterical about the bogus theory of Man-Man Global Warming.
Show some real proof and stop with the circumstantial hype.
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#12 Mar 8, 2010
If anything, this die-off is likely to end up being beneficial for bats populations worldwide.
Stronger, fungus-resistant bats will survive and thrive.
Brian in MA - not MN

United States

#13 Mar 8, 2010
HellerCarbonCapNTradeLLC wrote:
If anything, this die-off is likely to end up being beneficial for bats populations worldwide.
Stronger, fungus-resistant bats will survive and thrive.
Hah! Talk about unscientific, biased "guesswork". Show us the research to support your dubious claim. Unlike you, Deltaman seems to have a clue as to what he's talking about.
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#14 Mar 8, 2010
Brian in MA - not MN wrote:
<quoted text>
Hah! Talk about unscientific, biased "guesswork". Show us the research to support your dubious claim. Unlike you, Deltaman seems to have a clue as to what he's talking about.
The fact, Brian, that you are even here is proof enough for that which I am saying.
Your DNA has survived viruses and fungi that obviously killed off weaker species.

Since: Mar 10

Location hidden

#15 Mar 8, 2010
"HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC" sounds like nothing more than a propagandist for the caving enthusiasts, and he appears remarkably blasι when dismissing all "Inconvenient Truths" which might lead to curtailing cavers "rights" to continued, unrestricted access to bat caves — with their increasingly fragile ecology. All of his "Don' worry; be happy!" claims are NOT based on any established scientific findings and for the most part, completely contradict the conclusions of respected wildlife biologists who have been intensively studying this problem since it 1st appeared. I haven't witnessed any group — other than cavers (& cave-owners)— putting forward any objections to temporary cave closings where bats are known to hibernate, or attempting to flummox the public with flagrant misrepresentations about bat population health & bats' role in our ecosystem. Nobody believes that there's enough karma in cave closings, to save the bats solely through that action. On the other hand, lots of experts DO believe that closings will reduce some stresses on these rapidly dwindling populations of hibernating bats — thus, modestly improving odds for bats' survival & affording scientists a bit more time to find effective ways to treat and prevent further spread of the devastating illness. Considering the long odds against the bats right now, I'll support any action which offers even a slight possibility of shifting the odds more in the bats' favor; choosing otherwise seems unnecessarily reckless...
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#16 Mar 9, 2010
Deltaman wrote:
"HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC" sounds like nothing more than a propagandist for the caving enthusiasts, and he appears remarkably blasι when dismissing all "Inconvenient Truths" which might lead to curtailing cavers "rights" to continued, unrestricted access to bat caves — with their increasingly fragile ecology. All of his "Don' worry; be happy!" claims are NOT based on any established scientific findings and for the most part, completely contradict the conclusions of respected wildlife biologists who have been intensively studying this problem since it 1st appeared. I haven't witnessed any group — other than cavers (& cave-owners)— putting forward any objections to temporary cave closings where bats are known to hibernate, or attempting to flummox the public with flagrant misrepresentations about bat population health & bats' role in our ecosystem. Nobody believes that there's enough karma in cave closings, to save the bats solely through that action. On the other hand, lots of experts DO believe that closings will reduce some stresses on these rapidly dwindling populations of hibernating bats — thus, modestly improving odds for bats' survival & affording scientists a bit more time to find effective ways to treat and prevent further spread of the devastating illness. Considering the long odds against the bats right now, I'll support any action which offers even a slight possibility of shifting the odds more in the bats' favor; choosing otherwise seems unnecessarily reckless...
So at least you admit you nor the so-called scientists have a whit of proof that the spread of this malady has anything to do with the visits paid by humankind to the haunts where these bats live.
Fact is you don't even know how the blamed fungus spreads nor from where it originates.
For all any of the so-called scientists know, the source of the fungus could be the insects themslves upon which the bats feed, or the fungus could originate in or on food sources eaten by or simply touched by those insects that then are fed upon by the bats.
It is doubtful that any human scientist is going to figure out in the near future the origination of this fungus, and even in the unlikely event that some scientist does, it is highly doubtful any human intervention of any kind is going to change a damn thing.
Sounds to me like the normal ebb and flow that every species of life on Earth periodically deals with in order to survive and evolve.
Maybe this is the bat equivalent to the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Humankind dealt with that and our specie survived and there wasn't a damn thing any doctor then or now could do about it other than to try to lessen the consequences for a relative small few -- and you can see how well that worked given the tens of millions that perished in that epidemic.
Bats will survive and they'll thrive again but it won't be because of anything any human does or doesn't do.
Closing caves to spelunkers is the equivalent of hospitals washing patient wards with disinfectant during the 1918 pandemic.
It makes the humans feel like they are doing something to fight the spread of the illness but it ultimately won't do a damn thing to stop the malady running its course.
DEAL WITH IT, HUMAN.
ziggy

Albany, NY

#17 Mar 9, 2010
been in some area caves, years ago....

mostly limestone...and some shale..

I was lucky...

cold wet dangerous...

nothing like Luray, Lost Lake TN and AZ or Desoto in AL

Ask Cheshire Police about the risk of cave ins and Ilegality on Posted Land

The Olde Bat Cave in Hancock once let people in who patronized their Bar
Steve_M

Newington, CT

#18 Mar 15, 2010
Hello all,

I came across this discussion and felt a need to help answer some questions. First of all, Mike T. never claimed to be a scientist. He is a caver / conservation minded person who saw the need to better inform the public of what is going on with the bats. Mike organized an event, where the countries leading experts on bats and WNS discussed the present state of WNS and answered questions. Over 170 people attended this event, which indicates a pretty good concern and interest by the general public on this topic.

I'm not going try and argue or refute any of the claims that people have been making above (I've sent a link to this forum to someone who can), but I'd like to provide those interested with some good resources for information.

http://www.caves.org/WNS/
http://www.necaveconservancy.org
http://www.batcon.org/index.php/what-we-do/wh...
HellerCarbonCapN TradeLLC

Silver Spring, MD

#19 Mar 16, 2010
Steve_M wrote:
Hello all,
I came across this discussion and felt a need to help answer some questions. First of all, Mike T. never claimed to be a scientist. He is a caver / conservation minded person who saw the need to better inform the public of what is going on with the bats. Mike organized an event, where the countries leading experts on bats and WNS discussed the present state of WNS and answered questions. Over 170 people attended this event, which indicates a pretty good concern and interest by the general public on this topic.
I'm not going try and argue or refute any of the claims that people have been making above (I've sent a link to this forum to someone who can), but I'd like to provide those interested with some good resources for information.
http://www.caves.org/WNS/
http://www.necaveconservancy.org
http://www.batcon.org/index.php/what-we-do/wh...
From the looks of that chart it sure seems like the oubreak began in New York near bodies of water (Hudson River, Great Lakes).
Steve_M

Newington, CT

#20 Mar 16, 2010
Yes, there are many unknowns to this. It was first noticed in an area surrounded by farms and agriculture. It is possible that WNS may be related to a insecticide, fertilizer or may even have been tranported here in a package of seeds or seedlings use at a nearby farm. I'd say any of these are just as likely as it being transfered oversees by a caver.

There are hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy the sport of caving in the USA. We are not recklessly going into caves and disturbing bats. Organized caving has long had concerns of bats and in fact caves with significant populations of bats have been closed during hibernation season for many years.

We are only asking for goverment officials to be reasonable with us. Many caves do not house bats at all (ex. caves that regularly flood to ceiling). Most caves only house bats during the winter hibernation season. In the northeast, if you visit any cave in the summer, you will not see a single bat, as they do not live in caves in the summer. Therefore we are not disturbing them. In the south, there are examples of bat maturnity colonies where bat species live year round. Most of these caves have been closed to cavers for years to protect the bats.

Since the arrival of WNS, we have been following many protocols to help prevent the spread of it. We follow govt. recommended decontamination procedures, we no longer travel outside of our local caving areas. In general, caving during the hibernation season has halted in the northeast.(Other than assisting govt bodies with bat counts).

BTW, friends of mine supported a bat survey in West Virgina a few weeks ago, and a bat with and ID tag was found that had traveled over 400 miles. While the human vector for transporting this disease is possible, it is still not proven or likely. It is easy to put blame on a group, but unfair in my opinion. If you look at the spread of WNS, it has moved south. Not north to canadian caves, nor west to Indiana caves. South to warm caves following bat migration.

Since: Mar 10

Location hidden

#21 Mar 16, 2010
@ "Steve M" — "Hundreds of thousands" of "organized cavers" sounds wildly overstated, but nevertheless underscores an important point on why caves need to be closed as a precautionary measure... While you personally sound responsible & sincere, there's no way that you can vouch for responsible behavior from ALL of however many thousands of other caving enthusiasts are out there. In fact, up to this point, there have only been a limited number of mandated cave closings, and there are still many open caves available for exploration; even so, there have been numerous instances of cavers destroying the posted signs & barriers which have been placed outside protected caves. It will only take ONE arrogant, selfish caver to hasten the spread of this deadly WNS contamination to other bat colonies. Any reasonable person, willing to put science and logic ahead of personal convenience will recognize that human contact with infected colonies has likely already contributed to the rapid spread of WNS. Moreover, the required decontamination procedures for gear & clothing are expensive, time-consuming & difficult to carry-out properly. in The pseudo-science in propaganda being put forth by organized cavers conveniently overlooks several inconvenient truths about WNS, & distorts the ones that can't be totally avoided; that hardly strikes me as a responsible bunch! I've yet to see any professional wildlife biologists publicly supporting the self-serving nonsense being put forth by cavers...

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