Educational campaign aims to enlist more humans in efforts to prevent widespread bat mortality.
Over the last several weeks, Park Service officials have made two sad discoveries affecting some of the most vulnerable animals in their care: bats. White-nose syndrome, a disease fatal to many bats, has now been documented in two new parts of the park system, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Since the disease was first observed in New York in 2006, researchers have confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome in 19 states, four Canadian provinces, and ten national parks, including caves where endangered bats hibernate.
The disease is caused by a fungus that generally spreads from bat to bat, although people can also carry the spores on shoes and clothing. (Humans can’t contract the disease.) In caves where the animals were exposed to the disease for a year or longer, some types of bats suffered mortality rates of 90 percent or higher, raising the real risk of extinction for some species. Park officials at Mammoth Cave began taking precautions two years ago to reduce the possible spread of white-nose syndrome, including the use of decontamination mats to prevent the spores from clinging to visitors’ shoes. Now, the Park Service is launching a wider public information campaign.
This week, the Park Service released a series of three videos, Bats in Crisis, to help spread public awareness about the importance of bats in pollination and pest control, the deadliness of white-nose syndrome to bat populations, and ways that park visitors can prevent the spread of infection. Bat lovers and tourists to the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Southern states, take note.
Watch the other two videos in the series on the Park Service website.
The national parks that have reported bats with white-nose syndrome are: Acadia National Park (Maine), Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park (Washington, D.C, Maryland, and West Virginia), Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (Georgia and Tennessee), Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (New Jersey and Pennsylvania), Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee), Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky), New River Gorge National River (West Virginia), Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Missouri), and Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama).
About the author
Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications
Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes, edits and moderates online content.