Information for Cavers
Cave Closures & Registration
All known cave hibernacula are closed during the winter hibernation period. These closures currently include caves on the Bighorn, Black Hills, Shoshone, and White River National Forests. The White River National Forest also has caves that are closed year-round to minimize disturbance to bats.
Review the Regionwide Order to see which specific caves are closed: Restrictions on Cave Access (PDF)
Registration is required to access caves that are open. The registration system is designed to prevent authorizing access to caves that are closed based on the White-Nose Syndrome Environmental Analysis decisions or other considerations.
Select the correct registration form to complete and submit:
For most regional National Forests & Grasslands: Complete and save this Cave Registration Form (PDF) and email as an attachment to: SM.FS.email@example.com.
For the Bighorn National Forest only: Complete and save this Cave Registration Form (PDF) and email as an attachment to: SM.FS.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The cave registration system involves submitting basic personal information (name, email address, zip code) and information about the cave trip (date, cave name, national forest, number of participants) online. Once the information is processed, an approved registration form will be provided to the person making the request (the “Trip Leader”).
The Trip Leader is required to print and sign a copy of the approved registration form, and have each trip participant sign the form. Questions about the registration process can be emailed to the appropriate email address above. Reviewing the registration requests requires processing by Forest Service staff. Authorized registration forms are generally processed and returned to the applicant within 2 or 3 business days.
Is it possible to gain access to closed caves?
For caves that are closed, the Regional Order above includes exceptions to the closure order for eligible persons in several categories, including for WNS research and related activities, tribal ceremonies, emergency response personnel, members of the National Speleological Society and Cave Research Foundation, and others. These exceptions are similar to those in place under the previous emergency closure. Under the adaptive management approach, exceptions will be made by the appropriate Forest Supervisor but are expected to be rare. Cavers are encouraged to visit these caves when they are open for public access.
What is decontamination and why is it required?
Decontamination procedures using the latest National WNS Decontamination Protocol (U.S.) are required for everyone to enter any and all caves.
Decontamination refers to the process of cleaning clothing and equipment to prevent accidentally spreading the fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome. By properly decontaminating clothing and equipment, the likelihood of moving the fungus from one site to another is greatly reduced.
A summary of the decontamination procedures is provided with approved cave access registration forms!
VIDEO: The Monongahela National Forest, in partnership with the Cave Research Foundation, has developed a video demonstrating decontamination procedures (~ 21 minutes long).