Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 16, 2013

Deadly bat disease confirmed in Carter

OLIVE HILL — The fatal bat disease White-Nose Syndrome has spread to Carter Caves State Resort Park.

Officials confirmed Thursday that bats collected from three caves inside the park were infected with the deadly fungal disease that has been spreading rapidly across the U.S. since its discovery in 2006, killing millions of the insect-eating mammals. Nearly 40,000 endangered Indiana Bats hibernate annually in Carter Caves, representing half of those in Kentucky, park officials say.

Bats at Kingdom Come State Park Nature Preserve in Letcher County at Mammoth Cave National Park also tested positive for the disease in January. The disease has now spread across the commonwealth, having been found in 10 counties at 25 different sites.

Carter Caves Park Naturalist Coy Ainsley called the news terrible. “We knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier,” he said.

Infected bats were found inside three of the park’s caves  — Bat, Saltpetre and Laurel Caves — by wildlife officials who completed a routine biannual count of hibernating bats, Ainsley said.

The park had closed these caves more than four years ago in an effort to stop the spread of the fungus. The popular Crawl-A-Thon event, which revolved around underground cave tours, was transformed into the Winter Adventure Weekend as a result. In 2011, Kentucky State Parks began requiring guests who take tours in two caves at Carter Caves that remained open, Cascade and X Cave, to disinfect their footwear and not to wear clothing that has been worn in other caves. Ainsley said those precautions would continue.

White-nose syndrome has no known cure and is believed to be spread by infected bats. It’s named for the appearance of a white fungus that grows on the muzzle and other body parts of hibernating bats. The disease disrupts their hibernation and leads to starvation or dehydration.

Ainsley said the park will be meeting with U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and Kentucky State Nature Preserve officials to discuss the way forward.

“We’re just going to go over stuff and see if there is any new research that has been done, see what other agencies are doing. We just want to make sure we’re up to snuff,” said Ainsley.

The infection of bats at Carter Caves does not appear to be severe at this point, but is expected to spread among the populations at the park with infection and mortality rates picking up each year, said Ainsley.

“It’s just a matter of time. The bats are intermingling with one another, it’s just going to become more widespread,” he said.

“Right now, it looks like just the first year (of infection). Normally from year to year it’s going to be worse. More and more are going to be affected. Around the third year, you see around 80 percent mortality,” he said.

As that begins to happen, Ainsley said, there will be more visible evidence of the disease. As the disease grows worse, bats begin to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during cold winter months. They become irritated, wake from hibernation and move toward the entrances of caves or begin flying around foraging in the cold months and freeze to death.

“It’s sad because bats are a great thing to have around for us,” Ainsley said. “They help control those insects that not only bite us at night but affect our crops. They kept things in check. They are cool critters. You just want to go in there, grab them and take them to safety.”

Ainsley said the park will continue to educate the public about the disease and encourage donations to help researchers determine its cause and find a potential cure.

For more information on the disease, its spread and ongoing research, visit whitenosesyndrome.org.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014

  • Shay receives 38 years for fatal shooting

    Casey R. Shay, 27, of Morehead, was sentenced Monday to 38 years in prison for the fatal shooting last year of Cassandra M. “Cassie” Owens, 21.

    April 15, 2014

  • 0416homegarden.jpg Space not problem with home garden

    Growing your own dinner is not a concept lost on Kenny Imel.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Greenup court jumpstarts road repairs

    As part of the Greenup County Fiscal Court’s annual expenses, the court approved the first reading of an ordinance that allots up to $1.5 million for blacktopping damaged county roads.

    April 15, 2014

  • Nursing home reports drug theft to APD

    Woodland Oaks Health Care Facility, 1820 Oakview Road, on Monday reported the theft of 30 hydrocodone tablets from a secured area within the nursing home.

    April 15, 2014

  • Devices left from previous construction discovered

    All four lanes of U.S. 23 were shut down for nearly two hours Tuesday following the discovery of old explosives on a hillside rock cut.
    The devices apparently were left over from a previous construction project and were discovered by a crew working on the new Ironton-Russell Bridge, Russell Police Chief Tim Wilson said.

    April 15, 2014

  • Boyd walk to raise awareness of autism

    The differences in the nine children in Carla Malone’s classroom are striking.
    A few can talk, but some won’t make a sound and others jabber apparent nonsense sounds.
    There are playful children and those who keep to themselves. Some of the children can read and do other academic tasks. Schoolwork for others means matching pictures and doing exercises to develop fine motor skills, like learning to hold a pencil.

    April 15, 2014

  • Grimes outpaces McConnell in first quarter

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has again outpaced her likely Republican general election opponent, incumbent Mitch McConnell, in fundraising during the first quarter — but she remains well behind McConnell in total fundraising and cash on hand.

    April 15, 2014

  • 0416explosives0166 copy.jpg UPDATE: U.S. 23 reopened; explosives eliminated

    More information on the U.S. 23 closure from the the Kentucky Department of Highways.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • BREAKING: Explosives find shuts down U.S. 23

    All four lanes of U.S. 23 have been shut down to the discovery of undetonated explosives on a hillside, authorities said.

    April 15, 2014