As bat disease moves west, government makes caves off limits
Humans are being barred from caves to stop the spread of deadly white-nose syndrome.
Tue, Aug 31 2010 at 2:00 PM
STAY OUT!: Until researchers come up with a better plan, people won't be allowed in caves where bats live. (Photo: hankplank/Flickr)
In early August, the U.S. Forest Service was taking on the bat issue, and now the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is giving its state directors the authority to restrict access to bat caves and abandoned mines on all of the agency's lands.
The BLM’s move comes as a serious bat disease encroaches on the West. The Center for Biological Diversity is reporting that the U.S. Forest Service has closed all caves on national forests and grass lands in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and most of Wyoming and South Dakota.
Humans are capable of carrying the fungus that causes white growths on bats' muzzles and wings during hibernation. This ultimately causes mass starvation for bats. By keeping visitors out of caves, the BLM is hoping to combat spread of the disease.
Still, this is likely to be a wait-and-see policy to combat the disease also known as white-nose syndrome. The BLM has a plan for learning more about the disease, though stopping its spread is the priority. According to the Associated Press, white-nose syndrome has killed more than 1 million hibernating bats since its discovery in Albany, N.Y., in 2006.
Mollie Matterson of the Center of Biological Diversity (CBD) is urging immediate action from those living in the West. “Here in the Northeast, most of our bats are gone. If westerners don’t want their bats to meet the same fate, they need to act fast and use what we now know about the disease to slow it down. Stopping human transmission is one big step toward doing that,” Matterson said in a CBD release.
Related on MNN: Explaining white-nose syndrome in bats