Huge colony of imperiled bats found |

Huge colony of imperiled bats found

SCOTT CONDONpitkin county correspondent

One of the largest populations in Colorado – and possibly all of the western United States – of an imperiled species of bat has been found in the Crystal River Valley, according to the U.S. Forest Service.The Townsend’s Big-eared Bat is using an old mine that tapped into a natural cave as a roosting habitat, wildlife biologist Phil Nyland of the Aspen Ranger District said yesterday. He would not confirm just how many bats are living there.Studies are under way to determine how often during the year the bats use the Maree Love mine, located in the lower slopes of Mount Sopris near the Penny Hot Springs. A consultant is preparing an official report about the mine’s history for the Forest Service, but preliminary information suggests the Maree Love was a gold mine worked in the late 1880s. It apparently was abandoned for a period before it was tapped again for lead and zinc.The adits of the mine, driven horizontally into the mountainside, protrude into a hot vapor cave.The mine was rediscovered by Robert Congdon decades after it was closed. Congdon, a former coal miner in the valley who continues to explore for minerals, holds unpatented mining claims that give him access to the Maree Love’s underground minerals. The Forest Service controls the surface rights.