Deadly fungus killing up to 99% of local bat species; Mammoth Cave bats are now endangered

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MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky. – A local bat species is on the brink of extinction, threatening ecosystems as close as possible. Mammoth Cave National Park.

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Offside program coordinator Zack Couch said: “We’ve probably lost about 80% of our tricolor bats to white-nose syndrome over the last 10 or 15 years.”

A fungal disease is decimating bats in North America.

Mammoth Cave National Park cave specialist Rick Toomey said “The Grand Duke of the North [Bat]he killed 99% of these bats here in [Mammoth Cave National Park]. We no longer have them functionally.

White-nose syndrome has injured or killed half of Mammoth Caves’ 13 bat species.

“Tricolor Bats, we lose 85%, Little Browns, we lose 90%,” Toomey continued.

Bats are extremely important to the park’s ecosystem: a top predator of agricultural pests.

Toomey says researchers cannot see white nose syndrome growing on the cave walls.

“White nose syndrome is a fungus that invades the skin of bats while they hibernate.”

Here, on the brink of the near extinction of several species, what is the game plan?

“We can try to stop people from helping move it faster than bats are able to move it. The floor in our cave could contain these fungal spores,” Toomey explained. “We have [people touring the cave] walk on a carpet with a soapy solution to try and wash these fungi off their shoes so they can’t then take them somewhere else.

Also, US Fish and Wildlife is trying to add tricolor bats to the endangered species list.

Finally, “We will continue to do the monitoring,” Couch said. “We will continue to do habitat projects and create good bad habitats, either for roosting or foraging. Then hopefully in about 20 years we will see the fruits of this labor as the population begins to increase.

You can click here to learn more about the latest endangered bat species proposal.

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