Disease threatens local bat population

Disease threatens local bat population

STONE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Bats in Region 8 are in trouble after a disease has made its ways into local caves.

Tony Guinn with Blanchard Springs Caverns said that they found a dead bat at the caverns this past Spring and when they tested it, what they feared would find its way to their cave did.  The bat tested positive for White Nose Syndrome.

Guinn said the disease is caused by a fungus that grows on different parts of a bat including the nose, which is what gives it the name, and causes it to itch.

Guinn said, "Since it affects the bats while they're hibernating it causes them to wake up too many times while they're supposed to be sleeping."

Guinn said that when the bats wake up they leave the cave looking for food and because there are no insects out in the Winter the bats starve and die, and she said this is a serious problem due to how important the bats are for us and our crops.

Guin said, "Bats will go out and eat all kinds of night flying insects, mosquitoes of course, but that also includes moths, junebugs, nats, different things like this that bother us or bother our crops."

But the problems don't end at what is happening outside of the cave.  The bats dying could have severe affects on the food chain in the cave as well.

Guinn said, "When they come back in of course, they leave their droppings, many of the creatures that live here in the cave system, they depend on those bat droppings to start the cave food web."

The cavern is doing all they can to prevent the disease from spreading to other caverns, because as of now there is no cure for the disease.

Guinn said, "At the end of every tour, every visitor, and guides also walk through a mat that is saturated with wool-lite and water and it foams up and it basically cleans the visitors shoes off, so you don't track the spores of the disease from this cave say to another cavern system."

Guinn said that even though they are dealing with this problem, all of the caverns tours are still open, and running their regular schedule.  For more information on the cavern and White Nose Syndrome you can go to Blanchard Springs Caverns website here http://www.blanchardsprings.org/

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