So far there are no bats hibernating in an artificial cave built in Tennessee to help protect the animals from a deadly fungus. But the project’s sponsors are holding out hope for next year.

White Nose Syndrome is caused by a white fungus, and is deadly to bats. Since 2006, it’s killed nearly 6 million bats in four Canadian provinces and 21 states, including Kentucky. In an effort to protect some bats—and to stop the spread of the disease—the Nature Conservancy in Tennessee recently finished an artificial cave in a hill northwest of Nashville.

The idea behind the cave is that it can be disinfected every year to rid it of White Nose Syndrome—unlike a natural cave where disinfection would harm cave dwellers and naturally-occurring fungi. Nature Conservancy spokesman Paul Kingsbury says so far, the conditions in the artificial cave are mimicking those of a nearby natural cave.

“So engineering-wise, temperature and humidity are operating just the way we hoped they would, but we don’t have any bats in there yet,” he said.

Kingsbury isn’t sure why, but thinks that maybe the cave was finished too late in the season for the bats to have found it yet. The group is occasionally playing ultrasonic recordings of bat calls outside the cave in hopes of attracting bats, and Kingsbury says the hope is some bats will hibernate in the new cave next winter.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's News Director.