Several species of cave-dwelling bats face a serious threat to their survival: white-nose syndrome (WNS). You can find out more about WNS and how it has killed millions of North American bats in less than a decade here.
It’s important to remember that everyone can take steps to help bats survive. Scientists have not yet found a cure for this disease, so we really need to slow the human spread of the fungus that causes WNS. Also, we need to give bats safe, undisturbed places to hibernate and raise their young.
Park rangers will ask you three questions before you enter a National Park Service cave:
1. Have you been in a cave before?
2. Are you wearing the same clothes or shoes?
3. Are you using the same gear?
If you answered yes to 2 or 3, then a ranger will be happy to show you the simple process for sanitizing your gear or determining if it needs to be left behind. Clothing will need to be changed before cave entry.
Active, frequent cavers should familiarize themselves with the comprehensive decontamination instructions developed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Making sure you don’t spread P. destructans into new areas is one of the most important things you can do to help bats. But there are other ways individuals can help protect and conserve bats:
- Stay out of closed caves. Park managers close caves to protect hibernating bats and maternity colonies.
- Report dead/injured bats to park personnel. To protect yourself and bats, never touch or pick up a bat. Although WNS does not cause illness in humans, a small percentage of bats can be infected with other dangerous diseases, such as rabies.
- Learn more about WNS.This video series explains in detail all of the different aspects of WNS.
- Get involved. A number of organizations work to conserve bats. They offer opportunities, such as events and activities, to work on behalf of bats. Whitenosesyndrome.org has an extensive list of groups working together to fight WNS.
Bats generally live 5-15 years, and they usually birth just one pup per year!
Last updated: December 8, 2017