Pilot Knob National Wildlife Refuge
Pilot Knob National Wildlife Refuge is a 90-acre property, a donation of the Pilot Knob Ore Company. The site is at the summit of Pilot Knob Mountain. The area is riddled with iron ore mine shafts from the mid-1800's. These shafts have become critical habitat for the federally-endangered Indiana bat: the bats hibernate in the abandoned mine shafts, arriving in September and leaving in April. The old and crumbling mine shafts trap cold air and create perfect conditions for the hibernating bats. It's estimated that about 1/3 of the surviving population of Indiana bats hibernates every year at Pilot Knob.
In the summer, the bats fly off but remain in colonies wherever they go. When they rest they gather 100 at a time under peeling tree bark in the woods. These are called "maternity colonies" as summer is when a mother gives birth to her single pup for the year. The bats are extremely efficient bug hunters and will easily consume up to 1/2 their body weight in flying insects in a single night.
Pilot Knob National Wildlife Refuge is administered by staff at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge.
Photos courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service