On February 7, 2009, the Board of the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) took precautionary action to protect tens of thousands of endangered bats from deadly White Nose Syndrome (WNS) by closing several SCCi-owned or managed caves in the southeastern U.S. All of the caves being closed are home to significant populations of endangered bats. The selected caves will remain closed until the board determines that it is appropriate to reopen them:
- Frenchman Knob Cave in Kentucky
- Wolf River Cave, Holly Creek Cave and Rattling Cave in Tennessee
- Fricks Cave in Georgia
- Anderson Cave in Alabama
WNS, a lethal and poorly understood condition affecting hibernating bats, has reportedly killed over 100,000 bats since it was first detected in southeastern New York in late 2006. Where it has been identified, WNS has decimated bat populations, with reported mortality rates in the range of 80 — 100%. After having steadily spread throughout New York and New England over the previous two winters, this winter WNS appears to have spread rapidly toward the south and west. In the past several weeks, WNS has been credibly detected for the first time in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and now West Virginia. Despite intensive research efforts, scientists have not yet determined whether WNS is being spread by bats, humans, both, or by other transmission methods. However, faced with sobering WNS mortality statistics and the fact that the potential for human transmission has not been ruled out, the SCCi Board determined that closure of the listed caves containing endangered bat populations was the most prudent course.
The SCCi board believes that our highest responsibility is to exercise sound stewardship of our caves and the ecosystems they support. Our stewardship responsibility is heightened by the fact that many of our caves provide critical habitat to significant populations of federally-listed endangered bat species. While we recognize and sincerely regret that these closures may inconvenience those who would like visit these caves, we are far more concerned by the potential that human visitors to the caves could unwittingly introduce WNS to SCCi caves.
The SCCi takes the WNS threat seriously and continues to closely monitor the situation and take steps that are consistent with our goals of cave conservation and protection. To stay updated on developments, please check here regularly.