In February 2006 some 40 miles west of Albany, N.Y., a caver photographed hibernating bats with an unusual white substance on their muzzles. He noticed several dead bats. The following winter, bats behaving erratically, bats with white noses and a few hundred dead bats in several caves came to the attention of New York Department of Environmental Conservation biologists, who documented white-nose syndrome in January 2007. Hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats have died since. Biologists with state and federal agencies and organizations across the country are still trying to find the answer to this deadly mystery.
“We have found sick, dying and dead bats in unprecedented numbers in and around caves and mines from Vermont to Virginia. In some hibernaculum, 90 to 100 percent of the bats are dying.”
While they are in the hibernaculum, affected bats often have white fungus on their muzzles and other parts of their bodies. They may have low body fat. These bats often move to cold parts of the hibernacula, fly during the day and during cold winter weather when the insects they feed upon are not available, and exhibit other uncharacteristic behavior.
Despite the continuing search to find the source of this condition by numerous laboratories and state and federal biologists, the cause of the bat deaths remains unknown. Recent identification of a cold-loving fungus could be a step toward an answer.
On April 14th, 2009, we were contacted by members of the National Speleological Society in regards to the White Nose Syndrome, and the passage of a moratorium on guided caving excursions until further research can be conducted, and an answer can be found to the question of “What is killing the bats?” At this point, experts agree that human interactions with the bat population may be part of the problem, and it is not known whether the White Nose Syndrome has negative effects on humans.
In response to the moratorium request, we discontinued caving programs throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia for the next 17 months. Sadly, we have since learned that many of the other guides and outfitters in the area did not…
We have decided to continue the moratorium until further notice, with the exception of trips to Whiting’s Neck Cave, Martinsburg, WV, which has no bat population.
We hope that scientists will find a cure for the White Nose Syndrome that is killing the bats, and that the bat population will make a speedy recovery.
Thank you for your attention to this unfortunate situation, and we hope to provide service to your group through one of our other team building or adventure instruction activities:button