Excellent article in the April 10 edition of The Times about bats and white-nose syndrome that has been decimating bat populations of several different species in the U.S. for the last decade. Information such as this is vital to get out to the public, along with describing the importance of bats, as Michael Wheeler has done in his article.
We’ve read recently about construction projects being delayed or cancelled due to the presence of endangered species of bats, and articles such as this help to give the public an understanding as to why the concern.
I must, however, as a caver and speleologist of over 50 years, challenge and elucidate one statement that Mr. Wheeler has made. He intimates that it is cavers that spread white-nose syndrome from place-to-place, but that has not been shown as fact. Rather, bats continue to get the disease even in caves and mines that have been gated and closed to the public for many years. Such is the case in Kingston Saltpeter Cave in Bartow County, where I and two others have the only keys to the entrance barrier and have controlled access there since 1983.
We know who is entering on the very limited trips into the cave, and what decontamination protocols that they are following. Yet we identified WNS in bats there last year. Although we know that bat-to-bat transmission is mainly, if not totally, responsible for the transmission of WNS, responsible cavers still practice decontamination, limit visits to certain caves (as we do in order to protect bat populations during certain times of the year), and/or designate clothes and equipment for use in given caves.
Bats are important to us, and we are very concerned about what WNS is doing to our furry friends.?
Joel M. Sneed