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Spreading bat disease prompts call for cave closures

A bat infected with white-nose syndrome. Photo by Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

Science organization says human long-distance transmission is possible

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The unchecked spread of white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across eastern North America, has prompted a prominent scientific group to call for greater efforts to halt the potential for human spread of the disease.

Closing caves could help prevent a human-transmitted long-distance jump of the disease into a new region, such as the Rockies or the Pacific Northwest, where the disease could push more species to the brink of extinction.

According to the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the fungus is widespread, and that its spores are probably easily spread by humans. Continue reading

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Forest Service extends cave closure to protect bats

Cave closures will continue in the Rocky Mountain region of the Forest Service to try and protect western bats against the spread of white-nose syndrome.

Deadly white-nose syndrome still unchecked

By Summit Voice

Hoping to prevent the westward spread of a deadly bat disease, the U.S. Forest Service last week extended a general closure for caves on national forest lands in the Rocky Mountain region (Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas) for another year.

The agency tweaked the closure slightly to rovide exemptions to active members of the National Speleological Society and Cave Research Foundation for activities consistent with national agreements with both organizations.

“Our priority is to protect bat species and habitat from the westward spread of WNS, a deadly disease that has killed 5.5 million bats since 2006,” said Daniel Jirón, regional forester, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. “The fungus has not yet been detected within the five-state Rocky Mountain Region and we are taking an aggressive approach to minimizing the risk of humans inadvertently introducing the fungus into our caves and abandoned mines,” Jiron said. Continue reading

Forest Service extends cave closures to protect bats

The big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) commonly lives in man-made structures but migrates to higher elevations in winter to hibernate. It eats wasps, beetles, leafhoppers and other agricultural pests. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

Scientists still grappling with spread of deadly white nose syndrome

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Caves and abandoned mines on national forest lands in the Rocky Mountain region will be closed for another year as biologists try to pinpoint risks to bat populations.

The Forest Service closed access to the caves a year ago as a preventive measure to stop the potential spread of white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed at least 1 million bats in the eastern part of the country since it was detected in New York 2006.

Some signs of the disease have been spotted as far west as Missouri and Oklahoma. Wildlife biologists don’t have a good understanding of how bats migrate, and some conservation biologists have suggested that  blanket precautionary closures could prevent the spread of the fungus. Continue reading

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