The National Park Service is partnering with several states in the Rocky Mountain region to limit the spread of a disease found in bats called White-Nose Syndrome.
In June, the disease was found at Badlands National Park, and the nearby Fort Laramie Historic Site in Eastern Wyoming.
The park service says interagency efforts are underway to limit the spread of this deadly fungus into cave areas in northern Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
Holly Krake is a spokesperson for the park service.
She says the disease spreads two ways, either bat to bat, or by humans. She says currently there are 43 cave closures in the Rocky Mountain region that are either seasonal or year long.
Krake says that could potentially mean cave closures in the future.
“Starting in the Spring of 2019 we might be looking at additional closures to protect and limit disturbance to known cave habitat—places that bats use to limit the chance of human spread,” Krake says. “We really want to do that in conjunction with our partners, the caving community, our tribal communities and other folks who value cave resources.”
According to a press release, education and decontamination efforts for white-nose syndrome will continue at Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park.
The syndrome has killed millions of bats across North America, and is spreading westward.
Krake says there are things people can do to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Those are more important now that ever,” Krake says. “That includes things like avoiding disturbing bats, taking simple precautions to prevent further spread. Staying out of cave, mines or other areas that are closed. Decontaminating caving or hiking gear, boots, that type of thing if you do go into a cave.”
Krake says the public should call state wildlife agencies if they see bat flying outside during freezing temperatures, which is a symptom of the disease.