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Great Smoky Mountains National Park seeks to protect bat populations by limiting seasonal access to hibernation area

Monitoring to help inform conservation plan

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A map from Bat Conservation International shows the spread of white-nose syndrome in the eastern United States.

Staff Report

RISCO — The National Park Service hopes to protect bat populations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a winter closure to limit human disturbance to bat hibernacula and help hikers avoid interactions with bats.

The Whiteoak Sink area will be closed through March 31 while park biologists monitor  the site throughout the winter to cllect population, ecological and behavioral data. The information will be used to develop a long-term protection plan. An extended closure through late spring may be recommended if the winter data suggests such an action would increase the chances for survival of a significant number of bats. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: More bad news for bats

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White-nose syndrome may be nearly impossible to eradicate from caves.

New study traces biological evolution of bat-killing fungus

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study by University of Akron scientists forecasts a gloomy future for North American bats, showing that the fungus that causes the deadly white-nose syndrome can likely survive in caves with or without the presence of bats.

The persistence of the fungus threatens regional extinction of some bat species, according to the new study published in PLOS One. White-nose syndrome has killed almost 7 million bats and appears to be relentlessly spreading across the country.

“The ability of the fungus to grow in caves absent of bats would mean that future attempts to reintroduce bats to caves would be doomed to failure,” said University of Akron associate biology professor Hazel Barton. Continue reading

New study ups estimate of wind turbine bat deaths

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Wind turbines killed at least 600,00o bats in 2012.

CU-Boulder researcher says wind farms are “key threat” to bat populations

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — By the latest conservative estimate, at least 600,000 bats were killed by energy producing wind turbines in 2012, with the highest fatality rates in areas near the Appalachian Mountains.

Little information is available on bat deaths at wind turbine facilities in the Rocky Mountain West or the Sierra Nevada, according to Mark Hayes, a University of Colorado, Boulder researcher who authored a new study, set to be published in the journal BioScience.

“The development and expansion of wind energy facilities is a key threat to bat populations in North America,” Hayes said. “Dead bats are being found underneath wind turbines across North America. The estimate of bat fatalities is probably conservative.” Continue reading

Environment: Bat-killing fungus can live on almost anything

‘All in all the news for hibernating bats in the U.S. is pretty grim’

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A little brown bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The deadly fungus that has killed millions of bats across the U.S. is a tough, opportunistic organism that can eat almost anything and survive in a wide range of conditions.

There seems to very little that might stop the Geomyces destructans from spreading further and persisting indefinitely in bat caves, according to University of Illinois scientists who recently studied the basic biology of the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Conservation group says bats are at risk under new Forest Service Rocky Mountain cave-access policy

Re-opening caves could lead to spread of deadly white-nose syndrome

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By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service this week denied an appeal of a new cave-access policy for the Rocky Mountain region, clearing the way for the re-opening of some caves that have been under a blanket closure the past three years to try and prevent the spread of bat-killing white-nose syndrome.

The fungal pathogen was probably introduced to caves in the Northeast by humans and quickly spread to kill more than 7 million bats as far west as Missouri and Oklahoma. Bats are unsung members of the country’s ecosystems, providing valuable insect-control and pollination services. Continue reading

New Forest Service cave policy faces a challenge

Appeal says new rules won’t protect bats from white-nose syndrome

A Missouri bat that died after being infected with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy USGS.

A Missouri bat that died after being infected with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy USGS.

* Click here for more Summit Voice coverage of white-nose syndrome

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Conservation groups say U.S. Forest Service officials made an arbitrary and capricious decision when they replaced a widespread cave and mine closure with a weaker rule that could lead to the introduction of a deadly bat disease in the Rocky Mountain region.

In its appeal, the Center for Biological Diversity said that required decontamination procedures are questionable at best under field conditions, and that mandatory closures of caves when white-nose syndrome is detected within 250 miles doesn’t go far enough to protect bats.

Travelers and cave visitors could easily span that distance before the disease is ever detected, thus inadvertently spreading the disease into West, which so far has remained free of the disease that has wiped out more than 5 million bats across the eastern U.S. Continue reading

Colorado: Forest Service finalizes plan to protect bats

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White-nose syndrome is spreading outward from the Northeast. Graphic courtesy whitenosesyndrome.org.

White River National Forest keeps a few caves closed permanently, requires cave registration and decontamination

*Click here for more Summit Voice coverage of white-nose syndrome

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The White River National Forest is well-known for its many ski areas and stunning high-elevation wilderness areas, but the forest is also a Rocky Mountain stronghold for bats. And with a deadly disease poised to move into the region, resource managers are taking steps to try and protect the flying mammals with a new cave access policy.

Based on a regional study completed a few weeks ago, WRNF supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams has decided to keep several caves with biologically significant populations closed all year, and other caves may be closed seasonally. Year-round closures are to be enacted on ranger districts if white-nose syndrome is documented within 250 miles. The regional policy and supporting documents are online at this Forest Service website. Continue reading

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