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Hoosier National Forest Cave Closure Continues
Updated January 6, 2015 7:48 AM
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(BEDFORD) - Hoosier National Forest officials have decided to continue to keep caves closed to recreational use.

Officials closed caves in 2011 in an effort to protect bats from white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome has since been found in most caves on and around the Hoosier.

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus (Psedogymnoascus destructans) and affects most bats, including Indiana bat, gray bat, little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, and tri-colored bat. According to the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, researchers understand more about the disease than ever before and continue to look into ways to control it.

Mike Chaveas, Forest Supervisor, says continuing the closure will limit human access to the caves and will help slow potential spread of white-nose syndrome

"There are several ways the disease is spread," Chaveas says. "We cannot control bat-to-bat transmission or the spread from already infected environments to bats. By limiting access to the caves, however, we can try to slow the rate at which humans spread the disease to previously uninfected areas."

Most areas on the Hoosier are thought to be infected with white-nose; bat surveys show decreased numbers of hibernating bats for the last few years.

The cave closure prohibits the public from entering National Forest caves. Those found in the caves can receive a citation with a mandatory appearance in Federal Court. Scientists and researchers may acquire a permit to enter caves for study purposes. Permits require proper decontamination procedures before and after entry.

Gray and Indiana bats are currently listed as Federally Endangered species, and the northern long-eared bat is proposed for listing. A determination is to be released in April of this year.

"We work closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to improve and maintain habitat for species protected under the Endangered Species Act,"says Richard Winstead, Wildlife Biologist - Hoosier National Forest. "We follow restrictions and guidance on vegetation removal, prescribed burning, and other Forest management activities."

White-nose syndrome has killed more than five million cave-hibernating bats across the northeast and mid-Atlantic states and Canada and has been steadily progressing westward in its spread. Infected bats are easily recognized by a white substance around their nose, ears and head. It is thought that the fungal infection disrupts the bats hibernation which causes them to use fat reserves more quickly. Wing membranes are also impacted by the fungus. A bat's wings help maintain water balance, temperature, and blood circulation, so these combinations of impacts to the bat's systems increase mortality.

Bats play a key role in the ecosystem.

"Bats help with pollination and seed dispersal and are great at insect control. One bat can eat up to 6,000 insects in one night. The US Department of Agriculture estimates pest-control services provided by bats to be around $3,000,000,000. We need to do all we can to protect them." says Winstead.

More information on bats and white-nose syndrome can be found at:

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