Devil's Den closes 2 caves, bat fungus cited

WINSLOW, Ark. (AP) - Two caves in Devil's Den State Park will be closed to climbers as part of the effort to slow the spread of a fungus that's deadly to bats.

Farmer's Cave and Big Ear Cave are to close within days. The move follows an announcement by federal officials that 800 caves across the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest are to be closed to people.

The bats have been dying because of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that forces bats to wake up early from winter hibernation. The bats venture out of their caves too early in spring, and they starve because not enough insects are available.

Officials believe there is greater spread of the fungus brought by people to travel and climb caves in various states.

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