White-Nose Syndrome Confirmed at
Onondaga Cave, Mammoth Cave National Park
By Georgia Parham
White-nose syndrome has been found at two popular public caves in Missouri and Kentucky. Missouri State Parks received confirmation, in January, that a little brown bat found at the entrance of Onondaga Cave, at Onondaga Cave State Park in Crawford County, tested positive for white-nose syndrome. Nearly 20,000 people visit Onondaga Cave every year.
In 2010, Missouri State Parks staff began educating and screening visitors before each cave tour to help minimize risks to bats. Following the discovery, park staff requires visitors to wear clothing that has not been in another cave before. The same guidance applies for equipment they bring along. In addition, staff took action to protect the bats from disturbance while hibernating in caves. They also adjusted the touring season to avoid disturbing the bats in fall and spring when they are gathering for, or preparing to leave, hibernation.
Also, in January, the National Park Service announced that a bat from a cave in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park has been confirmed with white-nose syndrome, a condition deadly to bats. Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead said a northern long-eared bat in the park’s Long Cave was found showing symptoms of white-nose syndrome. The bat was sent for lab testing and those tests confirmed the disease.
Long Cave is the park’s largest bat hibernaculum and supports endangered Indiana bats and gray bats, along with several other species. The cave is not open to the public nor is it connected to Mammoth Cave.
White-nose syndrome was first detected in New York State in 2006 and has killed more than 5.5 million cave-dwelling bats in the eastern third of North America as it has spread south and west. The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in 21 states; white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in 19 states. It has also been confirmed in four Canadian provinces.