COPY-Mo. restricting access to caves to help bats

Associated Press - May 6, 2010 5:14 AM ET

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri is closing most caves in state parks and historic sites to help contain a disease that's fatal to bats.

The Department of Natural Resources says the closings are temporary and will be reviewed in mid-July. Four main tour caves remain open with visitor screening.

The agency hopes to reduce the chances that people who visit multiple caves will spread white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has devastated bat populations in the northeastern U.S.

The fungus has been found in a cave in Pike County, located on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis.

White-nose syndrome causes bats to awaken more often during winter hibernation and search for food. That causes many to freeze or starve.

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