White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that affects hibernating bats, has devastated bat populations across America forcing the US forest service to close caves to the public. Caves and mine shafts stretch from Maine to Minnesota and will be boarded up to prevent access and contain affected colonies.
The closure will be in place for 12 months in the hope that it will stop the disease being transmitted between colonies, the spread of the which some people believe is down to humans transporting spores from the disease between caves. Scientists have confirmed that they do not believe the condition is a risk to humans. Anybody not adhering to the closure will be faced with a fine or a 6 month spell in prison.
White Nose Syndrome affects sleeping bats by disrupting hibernation patterns and waking the bats prematurely, therefore using more body fat than normal to stay warm. This results in the bats starving to death over the winter. The name comes from a white fungus that grows on the tips of the wings and on the noses of affected bats.
Bats’ diets are made up of considerable amounts of insects throughout the summer months, and as a result, there are concerns amongst biologists that the number of pests could rocket if bat populations are not protected. This lack of natural pest control would have a knock-on effect in more use of pesticides to grow food, which would not only have potential implications for the environment, but would also mean an increase in food prices.