Thursday, May 09, 2013

Forest Service plans to re-open Western caves that it closed in fear of bat-killing fungus

The U.S. Forest Service is planning to reopen caves in the West that have been closed due to the spread of white-nose syndrome, a fungus blamed for the death of 6 million bats in the East and South, reports Sarah Jane Keller for High Country News. In 2010, the agency closed all caves and abandoned mines in its Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and most of Wyoming and South Dakota. (Fish and Wildlife Service photo: Brown bat with white-nose syndrome in Vermont)

Caves in the region's national forests and grasslands (see the Forest Service website) will re-open Aug. 1, under a management plan that "includes various restrictions, depending on where bats hibernate and how close the caves are to outbreaks of white-nose syndrome. Environmental groups call the decision shortsighted," Keller reports. "Some scientists think that the disease might not take hold in the West, because Western caves may be too warm and dry for the cold-loving fungus, and hibernation colonies tend to be small and far apart." The fungus has been reported in Oklahoma.

Last week, the fungus was discovered in Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader, and we reported in March that the disease has been found in 22 states. Bats contracting the disease have a mortality rate of 70 to 100 percent. The disease does not appear to affect humans.

No comments: