Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 11, 2012

Cave, mine closures extended to protect bats

WINCHESTER — In response to the continued spread of white-nose syndrome affecting bat species, the USDA Forest Service has renewed an order that closes all caves and abandoned mines on national forest lands in the Southern Region.

Effective May 21, all caves and abandoned mines on national forest lands in 13 Southern states, including Kentucky, will remain closed unless posted open. Only rescue efforts and other authorized activities are permitted.

In Kentucky, white-nose syndrome is confirmed in three counties. The disease is expected to spread to caves and abandoned mines that occur in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

White-nose syndrome was first discovered on bats in the state of New York in 2006. Since that time, the disease has rapidly spread.

White-nose syndrome is named for a white fungus that appears on the faces, ears, wings and feet of hibernating bats. The disease affects bats during hibernation, causing them to awaken and deplete energy reserves needed until they can emerge in the spring to feed.

More than 5.5 million bats have died as a result of white-nose syndrome in the eastern United States and Canada.

Scientists know white-nose syndrome spreads from bat-to-bat as they cluster in caves and mines. Once a bat colony is infected, the syndrome has the potential to kill more than 90 percent of bats within a cave in just two years.

White-nose syndrome is also likely transferred from one location to another on the clothing and footwear of humans. The cave and abandoned mines closures on national forest lands are expected to help limit the spread.

White-nose syndrome is not known to cause human illness, but unnecessary exposure to the fungus is not recommended.

 Bats are a natural and important part of the forest ecosystem. They significantly contribute to the control of forest and agricultural insect pests.

The website fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome/maps/WNSMAP05-03-12_300dpi.jpg shows the spread and current location of white-nose syndrome. 

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