Places We Protect

Crabtree Cave


Bats fill the sky at dusk as they leave their daytime roost to hunt for insects.
Bats at sunset Bats fill the sky at dusk as they leave their daytime roost to hunt for insects. © Robert and Linda Mitchell

Crabtree Cave shelters the largest bat hibernaculum in Maryland.



Crabtree Cave is a world that exists without the light of the sun. Its unusual habitat and unique species have evolved to survive in the permanent darkness.

All animals that live permanently within the cave, such as the nationally-rare Franz’s cave amphipod (Stygobromus franzi) and Franz’s cave isopod (Caecidotea franzi)—both aquatic invertebrates—have lost their sight and pigment. They have also acquired behavioral, metabolic, and reproductive adaptations that differ markedly from their surface-dwelling relatives.

Crabtree Cave is the largest bat hibernaculum in Maryland and shelters eastern pipistrel, little brown, big brown, northern long-eared and Keen’s bats.



Closed to the public due to concerns about transmission of white-nose syndrome.


Garrett County, MD

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Visiting Our Nature Preserves

Read our Preserve Guidelines to learn about permitted and prohibited uses, and ways of enjoying these spaces.

A NOTE ON HUNTING: Several TNC nature preserves in Maryland include hunting leases for deer management. Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to find information on hunting season, licenses and access to public lands. When visiting a TNC nature preserve during hunting season, please wear blaze orange and try to avoid visiting in the early morning or evening hours when hunting is most active. For additional guidelines on how you can hike safely during the hunting season, visit the American Hiking Society.

Protecting A Unique Habitat

Isolated from weather, natural disturbances, and sunlight, caves have evolved their own distinctive and highly fragile ecosystems. The animals occupying caves have solved the problem of survival in these dark, nutrient-poor environments in two ways.

Some, including bats and wood rats, inhabit caves by day but return to the surface to forage at night. Others, the true troglodites (cave-dwelling animals), have adapted so completely to the special conditions that they cannot survive outside.

This cave, along with John Friend Cave, is a site that includes species of incredible and fascinating, rarity. Management strategies at this 48-acre preserve focus on maintaining the cave gate to prevent unauthorized visitors and to protect the animals living in the cave. The importance of maintaining the gate has increased since the establishment of white-nose syndrome in the cave’s bat population.

The cave is an ecologically fragile and potentially dangerous environment. It has been closed to the public due to concerns about transmission of white-nosed syndrome, a fungal disease that is devastating populations of bats throughout the area. Thank you for your understanding and help in protecting this important part of Maryland’s natural heritage.


New research is shedding light on a disease that has devastated western Maryland’s bats.

Maryland's Bat Caves: A Healing Light (2:28) Small doses of UV light can destroy the white-nose fungus, shining a possible light of hope on western Maryland's bats.

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