Bat-Killing Fungus Spreads to Mammoth Cave National Park

A disease that’s wiped out millions of bats in the Northeast has spread to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Federal officials have found white nose syndrome at the popular tourist spot, about a hundred miles north of Nashville.

Northern long-eared bat with visible symptoms of white-nose syndrome. Photo credit: NPS/Steven Thomas

Northern long-eared bat with visible symptoms of white-nose syndrome. Photo credit: NPS/Steven Thomas

Hundreds of thousands of people take tours inside Mammoth Cave each year. White-nose just showed up at one of the park’s many smaller caves, where endangered Gray and Indiana bats often hibernate.

The site was off limits even before many caves began closing to keep the disease from spreading. Officials say Mammoth Cave itself will still allow visitors, emphasizing a program to decontaminate shoes and gear.

The disease gets its name for causing white tufts of fungus to grow on bats’ faces. It does not affect people, but can crush whole colonies of hibernating bats in just a few winters.

Since it was first found in New York in 2006, white-nose has shown up in 19 states, including Tennessee, partly because bats can also spread the fungus directly.

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