WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) —
A fungus fatal to bats in North America and Canada has been found for the first time in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park, federal authorities said.
White-nose syndrome, which was first detected in New York in 2006 and has killed an estimated 6 million bats, has so far been confirmed in nine national parks and 19 states as far west as Missouri.
Now the fungus has been detected in Long Cave, an undeveloped cave about 1.3 miles long in the Kentucky park, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Federal authorities have confirmed the presence of the fungus.
"I am incredibly sad to report this," Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead said. "A northern long-eared bat showing symptoms of white-nose syndrome was found in Long Cave in the park. The bat was euthanized on Jan. 4 and sent for laboratory testing. Those tests confirmed white-nose syndrome."
Long Cave is not connected to 390-mile long Mammoth Cave, a popular historic site visited by about 400,000 each year, and the park service said that cave, which annually generates about $3.9 million in fees from visitors, would be kept open for the time being.
However, the service will screens all visitors before they go on a tour and have them walk across decontamination mats as they exit, Craighead said.
White-nose syndrome gets its name from the fine, white powder that appears around muzzles, ears and wings of affected bats.