BTNF closes caves and mines on National Forest
To reduce spread of fungus suspected of killing bats
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
September 13, 2010
On August 26th, 2010, the Forest Supervisor on the Bridger Teton National Forest signed a special order to close all caves and abandoned mines on the Forest to public entry, except those signed open with official Forest Service signs.
The purpose of this closure is to reduce the potential spread of a fungus suspected of killing populations of bats in North America.
The affliction is referred to as White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) because of the telltale white fungus growing on the noses of infected bats. The closure will be in effect while studies of bat populations are conducted to assess risk of infection. If the studies indicate a low risk of infection, the closure order will be lifted.
WNS is killing entire wintering populations (currently estimated at more than one million) of bats in the eastern U.S. WNS was originally detected in New England and the Mid-Atlantic States and has since spread to states in the South and Midwest, and more recently has been found in Missouri and northwest Oklahoma. While WNS has not been reported in the western U.S., the general consensus is that it will eventually spread to many regions of North America.
Bats are an essential and beneficial part of the ecosystem. Bats play critical roles in insect control, plant pollination, seed dissemination, cave ecosystems, and provide food for other animals.
Scientists are certain that transmission of WNS is spread from bat-to-bat and cave-to-bat. Scientists also suspect transmission of WNS is facilitated by human activity in caves and abandoned mines where bats hibernate, because of the geographically non-continuous spread of the fungus. This means that the spread of the fungus is most likely occurring from clothing and equipment that are not properly cleaned and decontaminated between sites.
Indications of WNS are:
- White fungus growing on the nose, wings, ears, and /or tail membrane;
- bats flying outside during the day in winter;
- bats clustered during winter in sections of caves and mines not normally used for winter roosts, especially near the entrance;
- dead or dying bats on the ground or on buildings, trees or other structures during the winter;
- bats not arousing at all after being disturbed.
For more information:
Western Bat Working Group:
The National Speleological Society website:
The NSS and USFWS collaborative WNS site: