Caves, abandoned mines closed to protect bats

The U.S. Forest Service today declared thousands of caves and abandoned mines in Colorado and nearby states off-limits to the public for a year in an effort to slow the spread of a fungus that’s deadly to bats.

The closure order applies to national forests in the agency’s Region 2, which includes Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska. It follows the recent spread of white nose syndrome from the East to as far west as Oklahoma.

The syndrome, caused by a fungus, has a 90 to 100 percent fatality rate in bats, disturbing them during hibernation and causing them to burn off fat reserves.

Forest Service officials hope to use the closure period to more closely study the problem and determine if different approaches including more targeted closures of specific caves, such as those known to have hibernating bats, would be adequate.

“We thought it was the best course of action that we could take given the information that we have available today,” deputy regional forester Tony Dixon said in a conference call with reporters.

Read the full story in Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Sentinel.



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