Wind Cave National Park confirms fungal disease in bats

Bat, exhibiting signs of white-nose syndrome, in Wind Cave. (NPS Photo)
Bat, exhibiting signs of white-nose syndrome, in Wind Cave. (NPS Photo)((NPS Photo))
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 4:11 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - At least two bats have tested positive for a fungal disease that could threaten the population in Wind Cave, according to the National Parks Service.

The fungal disease--White-nose syndrome--kills bats in hibernation. Samples recently sent in for testing confirmed two positive infections and five probable cases, NPS said in a news release. This is the first time the infection has been found in Wind Cave, though bats in Custer County tested positive for White-Nose Syndrome in 2018.

Wind Cave has nine different bat species, including the Northern Long-eared Bat which is the most threatened species by this infection. The disease has put a dent in northern long-eared bats, causing them to be listed as a threatened species. There is no evidence that the disease poses a health risk to other wildlife, domestic animals or humans, the park service said.

Since 2006, white-nose syndrome has killed millions of hibernating North American bats.

To protect the bats, staff are using a different entrance for the rest of their hibernation season. Limited cave tours with continue this spring, but visitors will have to walk across a mat containing hydrogen peroxide to kill any fungus on their shoes that could inadvertently spread WNS to other areas.

Contact with bats will be avoided, NPS said, to avoid the spread of the disease.

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