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Cave Management and White Nose Syndrome

Cave Management and White Nose Syndrome. Chuck Bitting Natural Resource Program Manager Buffalo National River. What is White Nose Syndrome?. White Nose Syndrome (WNS)is a disease caused by infection with the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (P.d.).

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Cave Management and White Nose Syndrome

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  1. Cave Management and White Nose Syndrome Chuck Bitting Natural Resource Program Manager Buffalo National River

  2. What is White Nose Syndrome? • White Nose Syndrome (WNS)is a disease caused by infection with the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (P.d.). • This fungus is believed to have been brought into the United States from Europe around 2005. • The white fungus often appears on the muzzle and other parts of infected bats during hibernation.

  3. Why is WNS a Problem? • WNS causes unusual behavior in hibernating bats including flying outside in the day and clustering near the entrances of hibernation sites. • Bats with WNS have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers. In some hibernation sites the populations have experienced 90 to 100% declines. • WNS has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America since 2006.

  4. Bats known to be impacted by WNS • Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) • Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) • Eastern Small-Footed Bat (Myotis leibii) • Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) • Northern Long-Eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis) • Gray Bat (Myotis grisescens) • Tricolored Bat aka. Eastern Pipistrelle (Perimyotis subflavus) • All of these bats are present at Buffalo National River.

  5. Underground Bat Roosts at Buffalo National River • Buffalo National River has over 400 caves and hundreds of other karst features, bluff shelters, and abandoned mines. • These sites are important for a wide variety of reasons such as providing habitat for wildlife, providing groundwater storage and flow paths. They also contain unique and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources.

  6. Current Cave Management • To reduce the possibility of human spread of the disease, and to provide a more peaceful roosting experience for our bats, Buffalo National River closed nearly all caves to recreational access in 2009. • All abandoned mines have been administratively closed for decades because of safety concerns.

  7. Self Guided Recreational Cave Access • The caves at Lost Valley, from the parking lot, upstream to Eden Falls Cave remain open. • The caves along the Buffalo Point trail system are open. This includes the Indian Rockhouse, Overlook(ed) cave, Forest Trail Pit, Sinkhole Icebox, Panther Cave, and others. • Rationale: These caves have few bats, and it is unrealistic to attempt to close them as they are right on the trails, and in a couple of cases are the focus of the trail..

  8. Ranger Guided Recreational Caves • Back O’ Beyond Cave and Silver Hill Cave are open via Ranger guided trips only. • Rationale: The Ranger will ensure the equipment is decontaminated. These caves do not have very many bats, and the educational benefits outweigh the risks.

  9. Cave Research • Cave research continues in the park, but at a much reduced rate from previous years. • The Cave Research Foundation continues mapping, inventorying, monitoring, and studying caves. • All researchers must comply with all decontamination protocols, every time.

  10. WNS Actions • Cave closures and signing at caves, trailheads, campgrounds, etc. • Public speaking engagements to inform groups of the threats of WNS. • Monitoring of cave bats for signs of WNS in cooperation with AGFC and USFWS. • Annual bat population surveys with AGFC. • Acoustic bat detection surveys to develop baseline conditions. • Surveys of fauna in selected caves to develop baseline population conditions.

  11. WNS and Buffalo National River

  12. As you can see, WNS is a rapidly changing epidemic. Already 5 to 6 million bats have died as a direct result of the disease. Several species are expected to be extirpated, some are at risk of going extinct. These include the Indiana and Northern Long-Eared bats.

  13. What Can You Do? • Keep cave visits down to the bare minimum to avoid disturbing bats, particularly in the winter. • Learn more about bats and work to improve their roosting and foraging habitats. • Provide assistance to researchers studying bats and WNS. • For more information point your browser to http://www.whitenosesyndrome.org

  14. Thank You

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