Bats and White-Nose Syndrome
Missouri bats are at risk from white-nose syndrome, a disease that is fatal to bats but does not affect humans. The name describes a fuzzy white fungus, Geomyces destructans, which typically appears on the faces and wings of infected bats. After its discovery in New York State in 2006, the disease spread quickly into the eastern United States and Canada. Since 2007, it has been documented to kill at least 5.5 million bats of six species. The fungus was first detected in Missouri in 2010, and bats with the disease were found in 2012.
How You Can Help:
There are precautions you can take to minimize the potential spreading of white-nose syndrome in Missouri.
For visitors to Onondaga Cave, Cathedral Cave, and Ozark Caverns:
- To help prevent the risk of transmission of the fungus from cave to cave, screening measures are in place. We ask that you do not wear the same clothing, footwear, accessories or equipment that has been in any other cave.
- Upon leaving one of these caves, you will be asked to walk across a mat to physically remove any spores that you may have picked up from the cave floor. These mats are regularly treated to kill any spores that may be present.
Missouri State Park Wild Caves
- Most, but not all, wild caves in state parks that are used by bats will remain temporarily closed to reduce the risk of spreading white-nose syndrome.
- Specific exceptions will be made for educational tours and low-risk groups in specific caves. In many cases, special research permits are required, and permit holders must comply with the current decontamination procedure, in order to remove and kill Geomyces destructans spores.
- Missouri State Parks wild caves, which are not used by bats, may still be open for visitation. It is important to check with park staff before entering any cave to be sure you are not entering one that is important to the survival of bats.
- Fisher Cave at Meramec State Park will be closed to the public for the 2013 season. Visitors can continue to enjoy cave tours at Onondaga Cave and Cathedral Cave at Onondaga Cave State Park and Ozark Caverns at Lake of the Ozarks State Park.
White-Nose Syndrome in Missouri, Missouri Department of Conservation.
White Nose Syndrome Page, National Speleological Society
White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), National Wildlife Health Center
White-nose Syndrome, Bat Conservation International