LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Officials from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and the U.S. Forest Service have completed monitoring surveys for white-nose syndrome, a disease that affects many species of bats, and have not identified it in any monitored caves in Arkansas. White-nose syndrome is responsible for killing more than one million bats in the northeastern United States since it was first identified in 2006.
"Winter is the time of year when white nose is most easily detected," said Blake Sasse, AGFC wildlife biologist. "The effects of the disease wake hibernating bats during a time of the year when insects are scarce, resulting in starvation. Dead bats can be found at the mouths of caves or other hibernacula."
Since white-nose syndrome was discovered, it has been confirmed in 16 states and is suspected in three others. Three of those states, Oklahoma, Missouri and Tennessee, border Arkansas, but white-nose syndrome has only been confirmed from Tennessee.
"We're glad that white-nose syndrome has not been identified in any caves on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests," said Judith Henry, Forest Supervisor. "We plan to remain vigilant when it comes to doing everything we can to reduce the chance for the disease to move into caves we manage."
All caves on AGFC-owned property have been closed to public access because the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome can be spread on clothing and caving equipment. All caves and mines in the Ouachita National Forest have been closed to public access. The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest also has closed all caves and mines, except Blanchard Springs Caverns near Mountain View, a popular show cave. Strict white-nose syndrome protocols are being followed at Blanchard Springs Caverns to prevent the introduction of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.
For more information on white-nose syndrome, visit www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome or http://www.agfc.com/species/Pages/WhiteNoseSyndrome.aspx. The Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also have an educational video on white-nose syndrome available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlOehbW2V5I.