The latest: A cautious cave re-opening

  • A Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome found in Greeley Mine, Vermont, in 2009.

    USFWS
 

Backstory
Since 2006, a powdery white fungus has killed nearly 6 million bats in the Eastern and Southern U.S. In 2010, when white-nose syndrome spread into Missouri, the Forest Service at first kept Western caves open, but asked spelunkers to disinfect their equipment. Then, that summer, the agency closed all caves and abandoned mines in its Rocky Mountain region, including Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and most of Wyoming and South Dakota. The emergency closure was done without public input, and cavers protested (HCN, 6/07/10, "Bracing for white-nose syndrome").

Followup
The Forest Service recently announced that Rocky Mountain region caves will reopen this summer, most under an adaptive management plan. Developed with public input, the plan includes various restrictions, depending on where bats hibernate and how close the caves are to outbreaks of white-nose syndrome. Environmental groups call the decision shortsighted. Some scientists think that the disease might not take hold in the West, because Western caves may be too warm and dry for the cold-loving fungus, and hibernation colonies tend to be small and far apart.

Geddes Lawrence
Geddes Lawrence
Apr 29, 2013 09:57 PM
Thanks for letting us know about the re-openings. Do you know where I can find the plan that says which caves are re-opening and when? Also curious as to why environmentalists think this is short sighted!
Sarah Keller
Sarah Keller Subscriber
Apr 30, 2013 02:12 PM
Hi Geddes, Thank you for your interest. Our GOAT Blog has more detail about the cave management plan, and how environmental groups, and others, have weighed the risks: http://www.hcn.org/blogs/goat/return-to-the-bat-cave

Here's the Forest Service site with links to cave management decisions made by individual forests and grasslands within the Rocky Mountain Region. I would call my local forest office or caving organization to get a better idea of what's open, and when it's open: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r2/home/?cid=stelprdb5319926