Fungus threatens bats at New Mexico monument
September 26, 2018 06:42 PM
GRANTS, N.M. - From Carlsbad Caverns to El Malpais National Monument, bats are one of New Mexico’s natural treasures.
But a disease, White Nose Syndrome, is threatening to wipe them out.
It's caused by a fungus that, until now, was thought to be safely outside of New Mexico.
However, on Wednesday, park rangers at El Malpais National Monument confirmed the fungus has arrived.
Now, bats are threatened with extinction.
"It's been detected in 6, 7 caves in El Malpais," said Steve Baumann, state park ranger.
While no bats at the park have died yet, park rangers are worried about their future.
The dangerous white fungus looks like cotton that grows on a bat’s nose and wings, sometimes causing holes.
"It causes them to wake up in hibernation, for example, and starve to death," Baumann said.
Once it's in the caves, experts say nothing can be done to prevent bats from spreading it.
But, on Monday, extra safety procedures were put in place to make sure humans don't do more damage.
"What we are doing now is asking people to decontaminate before they go into our caves and decontaminate before they leave our caves," he said. "We use Isopropanol alcohol. You take wipes, clean your helmets, chin strap, clean your flashlights."
Researchers are worried about dirty caving gear and boots, so they've set up stations before and around the park to clean up.
Researchers are constantly monitoring the fungus. People can also help researchers by photographing any dead bats, with their location and sending them in.
- National white-nose syndrome website: https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/
- Map of WNS occurrence by county: https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/static-page/where-is-wns-now
- National Park Service white-nose subject pages, with videos, photos, maps: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/bats/white-nose-syndrome.htm
Updated: September 26, 2018 06:42 PM
Created: September 26, 2018 11:46 AM
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