WEST FORK, Ark. (KNWA) — Bats are one of the ecosystem’s most vital parts for controlling insects but its population is slowing declining because of a fungus found in Northwest Arkansas.
For the last ten years, the caves at Devil’s Den State Park have been closed because of white-nose syndrome, a disease responsible for the death of millions of bats across the country.
The disease is caused by a bat killing fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), according to the National Park Service‘s website.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) was found in Devil’s Den in 2013, but the caves at the park have been closed for ten years to prevent further contamination.
It causes the bats to wake up several times during their torpor.Terry Anderson, Park Interpreter, Devils Den State Park
Terry Anderson, a Devil’s Den Park Interpreter, said the Pd fungus gets on the wings and nose of the bats, keeping them awake when they should be hibernating in the winter.
“They use that energy up and then of course there’s no insects for them to eat,” she said. “So they die of starvation.”
According to the National Park Service’s website, the fungus doesn’t harm humans, but it can spread from one cave to another with the clothing you wear.
Basically stay clear of the caves and let the bats sleep their winter away like they should be.Terry Anderson, Park Interpreter, Devils Den State Park
Anderson said that’s why it’s so important for you to stay away from the caves even if they are not gated.
“We got a lot of people that we just have to explain to them why that is,” she said. “People are very understanding when they find out because they realize that we have to protect our bats as much as we can.”
Millions of bats, up to 100 percent of some populations, have died due to this fungal disease.www.whitenosesyndrome.org/
Anderson said we should care about WNS because the bats are especially important to the ecosystem because they help control insects.
“They’re kind of our protectors out there,” she said. “If we lose our bat population then that means we have to go back and start using more pesticides and more chemicals on crops.”
According to Anderson, Devil’s Den State Park will host an educational forum in July to increase awareness of WNS and the role bats play in our ecosystem.