For the more information about the geologic resources of the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease of cave-hibernating bats caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. After being discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, white-nose syndrome has spread to 29 states and five Canadian Provinces devastating the populations of bats in its path.
The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve, protect and share the legacies of America's natural resources. In meeting this mission, the NPS exercises its mandate for wildlife management in all national parks to help protect bats from this deadly disease.
What is at risk?
The National Park System contains over 400 national parks. One in four of these national parks have caves and one in three contain mines that can provide habitat for bats and other organisms. Over 50 species of bats have been documented in national parks.
White-nose syndrome is threatening bat populations and conservation, as well as visitor use of recreational caves and the enjoyment of bats in national parks. Bats also play an important role in keeping the ecosystem and us healthy by eating insects, pollinating plants, and dispersing seeds.
Cases of WNS have been found in or immediately adjacent to 12 national parks:
- Acadia National Park, ME
- Buffalo National River
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, MD
- Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, GA, TN
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, KY
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, PA, NJ
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
- Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
- New River Gorge National River, WV
- Ozark National Scenic Riverways, MO
- Russell Cave National Monument, AL
- Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Click image to enlarge.
Click image to enlarge.
How is NPS addressing WNS?
National parks welcome over 270 million visitors per year. Some national parks such as Mammoth Cave and Carlsbad Caverns have caves as their primary attractions. With WNS posing a threat to parks and visitor enjoyment, the NPS is taking steps to address this issue.
Parks with caves are updating their Cave Management Plans, or using other means to identify and implement actions to minimize the risk of WNS spreading into uninfected parks. These actions include: providing extensive WNS education and materials; screening visitors and gear; disinfection; and when necessary, closure of cave resources.
White-nose syndrome has not been shown to affect humans. No human illnesses to date have been associated with contact or exposure to WNS-infected bats or caves. Additionally, the fungus that causes the disease only grows at cold temperatures, well below human body temperature.
Last Updated: May 31, 2016