• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

White-Nose Syndrome (WNS)

bat with white-nose syndrome courtsey of the National Forest Service

Bat with white-nose Syndrome courtesy of the National Forest Service

Courtesy of the National Forest Service

A disease called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is spreading through the eastern United States, killing bat populations. Although this disease does not bother humans it has been associated with the deaths of more than 1 million bats in just three years. The cause of WNS remains elusive, but the syndrome has been linked to a fungus that forms a white covering on bats' muzzles as well as other body parts.

The fungus seems to prefer cold temperatures and so it strikes bats when they are most vulnerable-during hibernation. The fungus causes affected bats to wake and use up energy reserves long before spring comes, resulting in death by starvation or freezing.WNS was first identified in a cave in New York State in 2006, and has since spread southward and westward and has now been positively tracked to Missouri and Oklahoma. Scientists warn western states that its appearance here may only be a matter of time. It is believed that humans may contribute to the spread of WNS by visiting contaminated caves or mines and then wearing the same clothing or carrying the same objects to unaffected sites, transporting spores from one place to the other. You can help us protect the bats in Wind Cave by not wearing any shoes or clothing that have been in a cave or mine east of the Mississippi (or Missouri and Oklahoma) within the last five years.

An excellent video about WNS can be found at http://www.cavebiota.com/ The Battle for Bats: White Nose Syndrome.

The Park's 2011 Cave & Karst Resources Stewardship Strategy addresses the issue of White-nose Syndrome:

Wind Cave National Park White-Nose Syndrome Response Plan

Introduction

Since 2006, the White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease, has killed hundreds of thousands of cave-dwelling bats in the U.S. First found in caves/mines in New York, it has spread south and west. As of spring 2010 it was discovered as far west as Oklahoma. Little is known about the disease; transmission appears likely to be bat-to-bat, and some evidence may indicate that the spread of WNS may be linked to human traffic from cave-to-cave. This disease poses a considerable threat to cave-roosting bats throughout North America. As WNS spreads, the challenges for managing the disease continue to increase. The plan outlined below details the elements critical to the investigation and management of WNS and protection/use of related park resources. This plan is intended to be dynamic so that it may change as new information becomes available. Actions will be based on the best available science.

Background

There are over 40 caves within the park; with Wind Cave being the longest at over 134 miles. Wind Cave, the fourth longest in the world, has four entrances, including an elevator and a human-made entrance currently with a revolving door. Guided cave tours travel through approximately 1.5 miles of Wind Cave on five different tour routes. All park caves are closed to human access, except via ranger-led tours or by permit. The park hosts eight species of bats, six of which are cave-dwelling (Foster 2004). Bats have been documented in seven caves within the park including Wind Cave (Ohms 2002). The bats seen in Wind Cave generally are only found near the Natural Entrance.

Confirmed bat species within Wind Cave National Park (Foster 2002)

Myotis ciliolabrum-- Small-footed Myotis, Peck, 1964.

Myotis lucifugus carissima - Little Brown Myotis, Turner 1974

Myotis thysanodes pahasapensis - Fringed Myotis, Turner 1974.

Myotis volans interior - Long-legged Myotis, Turner 1974.

Lasionycteris noctivagans - Silver-haired Bat, Turner 1974.

Eptesicus fuscus pallidus- Big-Brown Bat, Turner 1974.

Lasiurus cinereus cinereus - Hoary Bat, Turner 1974.

Corynorhinus townsendii pallescens - Townsend's Big-eared Bat, Turner 1974.

Current Actions

Wind Cave National Park has undertaken the following actions to mitigate the potential spread of WNS. All visitors taking the Wild Caving Tour and all cavers must have clean clothing and caving gear. If they have been in a cave within an affected state, they must either not use that gear, or clean everything using the current USFWS decontamination procedures. Entry into caves within the park other than Wind Cave are restricted to research and management related tasks. No recreational caving is allowed. The park will conduct a winter survey within the park caves during the winter of 2010-11 to determine the current use of caves within the park by bats. If funding is available the park will conduct surveys during the summer months to establish a year-round record of bat usage of the park. Continue to provide directions to park staff on what to do if bats are discovered showing signs of WNS. The park will provide information regarding WNS to park visitors by having brochures available and adding information to the park website.

Enhanced Actions

If WNS is discovered within the state of South Dakota the park will take the following actions.

Continue with the current actions above.

Require anyone who is going off-trail in the cave to either have a set of clothing and gear that is worn ONLY in Wind Cave, or clean everything using the current USFWS decontamination procedures. Depending upon the results of the winter bat surveys being conducted in the winter of 2010-11, and the recommendations of the professional bat biologist conducting the surveys, the following actions may be taken.

Decontamination of park visitors, cavers, and employees entering all areas of the cave by decontaminating their footwear and backpacks. The park will provide all gear needed for the Wild Caving Tour, including coveralls. The Walk-In Entrance of Wind Cave will be closed during the months of October through April to all visitation. Or closing the Natural Entrance tour where bats are most often seen. The other tours do not go near areas where bats frequent, therefore will remain open to the public. The decontamination procedures mentioned above will still be conducted for all visitors.

Current Decontamination Procedures (USFWS 2009)

The first step of decontamination is to remove all soil and organic material from equipment, clothing, and boots using repeated rinses with water. This is especially important as organic material (i.e. clay soils) can prevent the cleaning and disinfecting agents from penetrating equipment, clothing, and boots, etc.

Submersible Gear (i.e. clothing and soft-sided equipment):
For clothing - Wash all clothing and any appropriate equipment in washing machine using the hottest cycle possible for material and conventional detergents. Laboratory testing has found Woolite® fabric wash to be the best surfactant for clothing. Rinse thoroughly, and then follow by soaking with sodium hypochlorite bleach (i.e. household bleach) solution diluted to 1 part bleach to 9 parts water in a tub or plastic container. Soak for 10 minutes, then rinse and air dry.

For other submersible gear (i.e. bags, gloves, etc.):
Disinfect any equipment that can be submersed in a solution with an appropriate and compatible disinfectant such as sodium hypochlorite bleach (i.e. household bleach) solution diluted to 1 part bleach to 9 parts water in a tub or plastic container or 0.3% concentration of quaternary ammonium compounds (i.e. Sparquat 256, Lysol® All-purpose Professional Cleaner or the antibacterial form of Formula 409®). Keep submerged for 10 minutes, then rinse and air dry.

Non-submersible Gear (i.e. hard-sided equipment):
Disinfect any equipment that cannot be submersed by applying an appropriate and compatible disinfectant to the outside surface by using 0.3% concentration of quaternary ammonium compounds such as Lysol® All-purpose Professional Cleaner, Lysol® disinfecting wipes or the antibacterial form of Formula 409®; or use sodium hypochlorite bleach (i.e. household bleach) solution diluted to 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Keep on surface for 10 minutes, then rinse and air dry.

For boots:
Boots need to be fully scrubbed and rinsed so that all soil and organic material is removed. The entire rubber and leather boots, including soles and leather uppers, can then be disinfected with an appropriate disinfectant such as 0.3% concentration of quaternary ammonium compounds (i.e. Sparquat 256, Lysol® All-purpose Professional Cleaner or the antibacterial form of Formula 409®) and sodium hypochlorite bleach (i.e. household bleach) solution diluted to 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Keep on surface for 10 minutes, then rinse and air dry. It should be noted that product guidelines should be consulted for compatibility before using any disinfectant on specific equipment. Also, detergents should not be mixed directly with bleach as this will inactivate the bleach and in some cases produce a toxic chlorine gas.

Ropes and harnesses:
Decontamination of vertical equipment is recommended. However, the performance integrity may be compromised by using these disinfecting agents mentioned above repeatedly. Laboratory testing is ongoing.

Cameras and other electronic equipment:
Alcohol wipes or Lysol® disinfecting wipes can be applied directly on surfaces.

Vehicles:
In addition to caving gear, vehicles used to transport equipment may harbor spores. It is important to keep vehicles as clean as possible by storing gear in clean containers, and to decontaminate those containers along with your gear.

References

Foster, Dan. 2004. A HISTORY OF BAT OCCURRENCE AND HABITAT USE, WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK. Unpublished report in park files, 7 pages.

Mammoth Cave National Park, 2010. MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK WNS RESPONSE PLAN. 29 pages.

Ohms, Marc. 2002. BAT SIGHTINGS IN WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK. Unpublished report in park files, 2 pages.

USFWS. 2009. RECOMMENDED PROCEDURES TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF WNS. 6 pages

2011 Cave and Karst Resources Stewardship Strategy, Wind Cave National Park

For more information regarding bats and White-Nose Syndrome visit:

The US Fish and Wildlife Service at www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome/

The National Speleological Society's WNS page at www.caves.org/WNS/

Bat Conservation International at http://batcon.org/

The South Dakota Bat Working Group at www.sdbwg.org/

An excellent video about WNS can be found at http://www.cavebiota.com/ The Battle for Bats: White Nose Syndrome.

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