There’s an ironic twist to a mysterious illness killing off bats in Pennsylvania and other states. Wildlife officials say it could be the very researchers and cavers wanting to get close to the animals who are spreading the disease.
Wildlife officials today issued a request asking people in Pennsylvania and other states to stay out of bat caves.
Hundreds of thousands of bats in northeastern states have died from white nose syndrome in recent years. Several months ago, the mysterious illness was confirmed in northern Pennsylvania. Biologists now say researchers and cavers may be partly responsible for the spread of a fungus associated with the disease. DeAnn Reeder is a professor at Bucknell.
Reeder: We know that fungal spores are things that are released into the air and they can stick to your caving suit … and in your boots and then can be tracked to another site. Because we know fungal spores can move that way, it’s entirely possible that humans have spread white nose.
Reeder says the disease pattern seems to follow human traffic rather than bat migration. US Fish and Wildlife Service has asked cave visitors to voluntarily stay out of caves where bats hibernate until researchers can learn more about the disease and its spread.