A fungus carried by bats has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to consider closing state-owned caves in several states, but Cave of the Winds reports they will remain open.
This week the regional US Forest Service office announced that it will consider closing of all USFS caves in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota for a minimum of one year, because of the presence of the White Nose Syndrome (WNS) fungus. The fungus was initially detected in a state-owned cave in west central Oklahoma.
Despite the possible closures in other caves, the Cave of the Winds is notifying the public that it will remain open and continue to welcome guests while actively informing the general public on the importance of bats and caves to the environment and ecology of our planet.
“We all know that having an informed and experienced show cave community visible and interfacing with the public is one of the most comprehensive ways to inform, protect, and conserve caves and all the resources they hold, including bats,” said Grant Carey, General Manager of the Cave of the Winds.
White Nose Syndrome is impacting and killing populations of bats. It's unknown where it originated. It gets its name from the white fungus that appears on the noses of infected bats. It does not affect humans.
Below are a few statements released by Cave of the Winds, as well as posted on their web site:
"As WNS approaches the western states, Cave of the Winds is taking a proactive approach towards the protection of bats. There are not very many bats that live inside Cave of the Winds and the surrounding caves. The caves of this area do not have any major colonies nor are the caves in any migration patterns that cause large groups of bats to use these caves. However, Cave of the Winds is working to protect the one known maternity roost on the property by closing the cave to all access. As well all people caving in the remote caves on the property are being required to disinfect their caving clothes and equipment to prevent the possibility of cross contamination from other caves. Cave of the Winds is very familiar with the importance of bats in the ecosystem and is striving to protect bats and promote cave exploration and study."
Cave of the Winds feels ALL ramifications which attempt to balance the needs of the bats affected or threatened by WNS with other conservation and public access goals, none of which are mutually exclusive, need to be considered in balance with a blanket order to close ALL publicly managed caves and mines.
Editor's Note: KKTV previously reported that the decision had been made by the USFS to close the caves. In fact, they are only considering it. The erroneous information came to KKTV 11 News in a news release from Cave of the Winds and has been corrected.