Last tour of the year at Cherney Maribel Caves County Park

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MARIBEL, Wis. (WBAY) - About fifty feet below the ground, tourists were exploring Maribel New Hope Cave at Cherney Maribel Caves County Park.

"It was cool I had never been here before," Tourist Mallori Licourt said.

"It is very interesting," Tourist Carol Goff said. "I've lived here forever and I've never explored."

No one knew about the cave for 21 years except, of course, the bats.

"I thought it was pretty cool that I saw like bats in there because I usually don't see bats," Licourt said.

Now it's an icon at Maribel Caves County Park, but Sunday was the last tour of the season.

"The U.S. Fish and Wild Life will not allow us into the cave after the third Sunday of October until the last week of April," Tour Guide Mike Sobush said.

Sobush said during the winter the cave needs to be safe for the bats to hibernate inside.

"They get in clusters and then one bat sort of stays awake and then they rotate and protect the group," Sobush said.

According to Sobush two years ago they had 166 bats in the cave, but now they have 9 due to white nose syndrome.

"What it does is eat away at their fat," said Sobush. "It makes them nervous and then they wake up in the middle of the winter time. They're hungry, they fly out and unfortunately freeze to death."

When the park opens next year Sobush hopes to see even more bats in the cave, continuing to bring it to life for tourists.

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