Spring Cave closing aims to save bats

MEEKER I Spring Cave is an important biological resource, which is now closed to public access, along with all other caves and abandoned mines of the White River National Forest and the Rocky Mountain Region. The temporary emergency closure was announced last week by Deputy Regional Forester Tony Dixon to mitigate the westward spread of White-Nose Syndrome that is killing 90 to 100 percent of hibernating bats in its wake.
Cave hibernating bats like those found in Spring Cave, are considered to have a very high risk of acquiring White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). White-Nose Syndrome is a deadly disease in bats and results in almost total mortality of bat colonies. More than one million bats have been killed by WNS across the eastern U.S. over the last four years.
Although WNS has not been found in Colorado yet, it was confirmed in northwestern Oklahoma in May of this year. The rapid spread of the disease has biologists and managers concerned that the disease will spread to Colorado and other western states with the same deadly consequences.
Because bats only have one young per year, if bat populations are killed by WNS, they may never recover. Especially for bats that are already rare like the Townsend’s big-eared bat, WNS would be catastrophic.
To prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome, which appears to be transferred from cave to cave by both bats and on people’s clothing and gear, all caves and mines on National Forests and Grasslands in Colorado, most of Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas are closed to human entry for a period of one year.
Ken Coffin, Blanco District ranger, said, “We urge the public to respect the closure of Spring Cave along with all other caves and abandoned mines to minimize the chance of humans spreading the deadly fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome. Please help us protect the bats in Spring Cave by observing its temporary closure.”
If you would like more information on this topic, contact the Blanco Ranger District at 878-4039 and visit the Forest Service White-Nose Syndrome website at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/wns.