Photo by Ann Froschauer.
Entry into caves or mine shafts in the national park is prohibited.
This closure has been initiated due to recommendations issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 5,700,000 cave dwelling bats have died from white-nose syndrome, and many more bats are at immediate risk.
Wildlife managers are concerned about the outbreak because bats congregate by the thousands in caves and mines to hibernate during winter months. This behavior increases the potential that the disease will spread among hibernating bats. In addition, hibernating bats disperse in spring and migrate, sometimes hundreds of miles away, to spend the summer.
WNS has affected seven species of bats, including endangered Indiana bats and gray bats, raising concerns about the impacts on these species already at risk. Other affected bat species in the park include the tricolored bat, northern long-eared bat, big brown bat, eastern small-footed bat and little brown bats.
Scientists believe that WNS causes bats to lose fat reserves, which they need to survive hibernation. Bats with WNS act strangely during cold winter months when they should be hibernating. They fly outside during the day, possibly looking for food, and cluster near the entrances of caves and other hibernation areas. Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers in and around caves.
Did You Know?
About 100 native tree species make their home in Great Smoky Mountains National Park—more than in all of northern Europe. The park also contains one of the largest blocks of old-growth temperate deciduous forest in North America. More...