December 31, 2013 at 4:07 am #1860MikeKeymaster
Deadly fungus shuts US bat caves
Suzanne Goldenburg guardian.co.uk,
Monday 4 May 2009 22.34 BST
Thousands of bat caves across America are to be boarded up by the US forest service to try to halt the spread of a mysterious condition which has killed up to half a million of the creatures.
The emergency closure applies to caves and mines across 33 states, and is aimed at containing a fungus that has spread rapidly through hibernating colonies, devastating the US bat population.
The fungus, known as white nose syndrome, strikes bats in winter as they hibernate, depositing rings on their muzzles and wing membranes.
The organism, which appears to be a deadlier variant than one that emerged recently in northern Europe, was discovered in 2006 when researchers in New York found the shrivelled bodies of hundreds of bats.
Scientists say white nose syndrome poses no risk to humans, but they suspect humans may have inadvertently helped transmit spores from cave to cave, spreading the condition.
The rapid spread of the disease has heightened concerns about upsetting the delicate ecological balance. Bats, in their summer, waking months eat their weight in mosquitos and other insects every night. Biologists said the demise of the bat population could precipitate an increase in the use of pesticides and, eventually, food prices.
Many of the caves to be closed this month are in the Monongahela national forest in West Virginia, although the range of shuttered mines and caves spans Minnesota to Maine.
The sites will probably remain closed for up to a year. Those who breach the order face up to six months in prison or a hefty fine.
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