White-Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that’s killed some 7-million bats in the U-S since 2006, has been confirmed in bats at Wind Cave National Park.
Park Chief of Interpretation Tom Farrell says testing has resulted in 2 confirmed cases and 5 probable cases. They’re the first confirmed cases in Wind Cave, but WNS was confirmed in adjacent Custer County in 2018.
Wind Cave is home to 9 species of bats, including the northern long-eared bat – one of the species hit hardest by the disease, which fatally attacks hibernating bats. There is no evidence it poses a threat to anything other than bats.
Farrell says the timing of the discovery is fortunate because elevator problems and COVID-19 protocols have halted cave tours since July 2019, sharply reducing the chance of the public spreading the fungus.
He says Wind Cave staff have been protecting the hibernating bats by not using the Walk-In Entrance this winter.
When limited public tours finally resume later this spring, participants will walk across a mat with hydrogen peroxide to kill any fungus on their shoes that might spread WNS to other areas.
Caves such as Wind Cave provide important shelter for bats, the unique flying mammals that can eat up to their body weight in insects each day, providing valuable pest control services.