Environment
9:51 am
Wed February 26, 2014

White Nose Syndrome Shows Up In Mammoth Cave National Park

Credit Ryan von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Staff at Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky say a fatal bat disease has now shown up in visitor passageways.  The disease was found in remote sections of the cave system last year. 

Rick Toomey, a scientist with the Resource Management Division at the park says humans are not at risk.

“The reason is the bats are being infected when their body temperatures are down around freezing and their immune system is turned off, which happens in hibernation.," he said. "Since people never get body temperatures down that low, the fungus won’t grow on people.”

There are no plans to alter tours or research at Mammoth Cave.  White Nose Syndrome first showed up in the U.S. in 2005.  The first reported case in Kentucky was two years ago in Trigg County.

Toomey says measures are being taken to stop the fungus from leaving the park.

“Every visitor walks over a bio-control mat after their tour that will hopefully cleans their shoes off and keep them from potentially moving those fungal spores to someplace else.”

Of all of the tour trails, the disease has been most noticed at the entrance to the Historic Cave tour.  Since it was first introduced White Nose Syndrome has killed about seven million cave-dwelling bats.