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White-nosed syndrome spreads in Kentucky

From Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

-- Kentucky Fish and Wildlife biologists have detected white-nose syndrome in bats at three Breckinridge County caves.

Three common species the Northern long-eared, tri-colored and little brown bat have tested positive for Geomyces destructans, the fungus responsible for white-nosed syndrome. The caves, located northeast of Hardinsburg, are within a 20-mile radius of each other. The caves are privately owned and not open to the public.

Confirmation of the disease was recently made by personnel at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga.

Biologists are still assessing caves within the area to determine the extent of the infection. With winter surveys getting underway, it is unknown if there are more infected sites yet undetected in the state. Employees of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working collaboratively on local surveillance and monitoring of the disease since it was first detected in New York state in 2006.

“By having a state white-nosed syndrome response plan in place, it has allowed us to quickly coordinate surveillance of known hibernacula,” said Brooke Hines, state bat ecologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Local grottos have been a tremendous help.”

“We have assisted Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for many years with cave surveys,” noted Glenn Driskell, a caver with the Fort Knox Grotto. Last winter, department biologists surveyed approximately 100 caves throughout the state as part of its intense monitoring protocol. At the end of the survey season, white-nosed syndrome was confirmed in a cave located in Trigg County, in southwestern Kentucky. This was the first documentation of the disease in the state.

Although it has not been shown that humans can contract the fungus, officials are still working to educate anyone who may enter a cave on the proper decontamination protocol. Decontamination helps to prevent human movement of the disease throughout the landscape. Ways that people can help stop the spread of the disease can be found online at the website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/cavers.html.

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