Environment
11:03 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Fatal Bat Disease Found in Two Kentucky State Parks

White Nose Syndrome has been found in two Kentucky state parks. State officials announced today that infected bats have turned up in caves at Carter Cave State Resort Park in Carter County and the Kingdom Come State Park Nature Preserve in Letcher County.

White Nose Syndrome is caused by a white fungus, and is deadly to bats. Since 2006, the fungus has been found in 21 states. The disease has killed more than 6 million bats in four Canadian provinces and 19 states, including Kentucky. It was discovered in Mammoth Cave National Park last month.

Now, the disease has been found in seven Kentucky counties: Bell, Edmonson, Breckenridge, Trigg, Carter, Letcher and Wayne counties.

From the Kentucky Department of Parks:

Bats with the disease were found recently at Carter Caves, near Olive Hill, in caves that are not open to the public. The three caves where bats with the disease were found are Bat, Saltpetre and Laurel Caves, which were closed in 2008 as part of the effort to stop the spread of the fungus causing the disease.

Carter Caves is home to about 40,000 Indiana bats, which are federally endangered. The majority of those are found within Bat Cave, which is also part of the Bat Cave State Nature Preserve…

A bat with the disease also was found in January at Line Fork Cave at Kingdom Come State Park during a routine cave survey. The cave is gated and not open to tourists. This cave is in Letcher County, located inside the 225-acre Kingdom Come State Park Nature Preserve and is home to the federally protected Indiana bat. 

The discovery of these infected bats indicates White Nose Syndrome is moving further into Kentucky. So far there’s no cure, partly because it’s impossible to clean caves of the fungus without harming naturally-occurring cave fungus. The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee recently finished an artificial cave that can be disinfected every year, and the organization hopes that may help protect some bat populations from White Nose Syndrome.