Credit: Nancy Heaslip, New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation
A report by New Scientist has pointed the finger at cave explorers for possibly spreading a disease that has decimated bat populations from Virginia to New England. Scientists believe the disease, white-nose syndrome, can be passed by direct bat-to-bat contact or from bat-to-cave contact, and cave explorers may be spreading the disease as they visit multiple caves.
The symptoms of the disease include a white fungus around the bats’ nose and wings. Further, in bats infected with the disease, the fat stores that usually sustain them while hibernating in the winter are largely depleted. They are also found huddled together closer to cave entrances and have been known to venture out during the day and in cold weather — all uncharacteristic bat behavior.