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Tory’s Cave and The Eleanor and Howard Hunt Nature Preserves, New Milford

499 Kent Road, New Milford, CT 06776

Preserve Acres: 115

Roundtrip Distance: 0.4 mile

Tory’s Cave is closed to the public. The preserve still offers 0.4 miles of trails and a central access point to the 6 mile Housatonic Range Trail which is part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System.

To help protect and conserve endangered bat species, Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy made the difficult decision to close Tory’s Cave in New Milford to the public. Our research with the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) and Northeastern Cave Conservancy (NCC) has documented two species of endangered bats and the possible presence of a third species listed as threatened in Connecticut occupying the cave. The closure of the cave will, during winter, minimize disturbances to hibernating bats and, year-round, stop the spread of White-nose Syndrome (WNS) by humans entering the cave. WNS is a devastating fungal disease that has killed millions of bats throughout the Northeast since its introduction in 2006. The fungus invades the skin of hibernating bats and disrupts their hydration and hibernation cycles, which causes them to awake early and use already limited fat reserves resulting in their starvation.

Thankfully, Tory’s Cave is home to some of the rare survivors of WNS and is one of the few places in the state (and even the region) where bats have been documented still hibernating. Given the widespread decimation of bats in our region and the ease with which WNS is spread, protecting each individual surviving bat and their remaining known habitats has become critical.

NCLC, CT DEEP, and NCC hope that the bats of Tory’s Cave are resistant to WNS or will survive its spread and help populations recover.  Bats play many important roles in the ecosystem, including pollinating flowers, spreading seeds, and controlling insect populations. Some species can capture 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour, as well as other insects that can damage forests and crops.

Tory’s Cave preserve still offers trails and is a central access point to Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy’s Eleanor and Howard Hunt Nature Preserve and the 6-mile Housatonic Range Trail which is part of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System.

The Eleanor and Howard Hunt Nature Preserve

The Eleanor and Howard Hunt Nature Preserve consists of 107 acres of wooded land west and south of the Tory’s Cave property.  Mr. and Mrs. Hunt were long-time residents of New Milford and had owned the land that is now the preserve for over 50 years.  The land was donated to Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy by brothers Brian and Mark Hunt in 2016 in memory of their parents.

In the late 19th century, the land that is now the Hunt Nature Preserve was owned by the Kent Iron Company, which operated from 1826 to 1892.  The remains of a blast furnace owned by Kent Iron are located on what are now the grounds of the Sloane Stanley Museum in Kent, Connecticut.  Iron from the Litchfield Hills was used to make cannons during the Civil War as well as to supply 19th-century locomotive and steam engine manufacturers in New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. The Hunt Nature Preserve land was used to produce charcoal for ironmaking.  Many of the hills of northwest Connecticut were stripped of their trees as charcoal was produced on-site to feed the iron industry. Remnants of 19th-century charcoal mounds can be found on the Hunt preserve; they appear as shallow circular areas, some with stone foundations.  Several are found adjacent to existing trails.

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