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, Geomyces destructans. After being discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, white-nose syndrome has spread to 21 additional states and five Canadian Provinces devastating the populations of bats in its path.
It is the mission of the National Park Service 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.
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. 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 have an important role in ecosystem functions such as: eating insects, pollinating plants, dispensing seeds and serving as prey themselves; their conservation is vital.
Cases of WNS have been found in or immediately adjacent to 10 national parks:
- Acadia National Park, ME
- 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
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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.
The human health risk from WNS is unknown but appears to be low. No human illnesses to date have been associated with contact or exposure to WNS-infected bats or caves. In addition, G. destructans only grows at temperatures well below human body temperature so infection is very unlikely.
Last Updated: November 13, 2013