Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park taking steps to prevent spread of white-nose syndrome in bats

May 10, 2011, 1:49 pm

Tourist cave and mine operations are implementing more stringent measures to combat the spread of a deadly bat disease that continues to move west across the United States.

Mammoth Cave National Park recently began using "bio mats" to disinfect the shoes of guests as the enter and leave the massive Kentucky cave system after state officials confirmed the first site of white-nose syndrome in a cave in Trigg County last month.

The mats are the last line of defense to kill fungal spores that cause WNS by growing on the nose and wings of bats as they hibernate. The fungus typically wakes hibernating bats, which leave the cave in search of food or water, and deplete energy reserves necessary to make it through the winter.

The result is massive bat die-offs, often near cave entrances.

WNS is primarily transmitted by bat-to-bat contact, but evidence suggests fungal spores are transported on the shoes and fabrics of recreational cavers and others who frequent the underground.

Mammoth Cave officials began interviewing guests, asking them to change clothes or gear they have worn at other sites, and informing tourists about white nose syndrome shortly after it was first detected in upstate New York in 2006.

Carson said the bat hibernacula at Mammoth Cave is in a separate area from the tourist caves and the park will continue with all tours as experts continue to monitor for any sign of the disease.