2016 White-nose Syndrome - Adaptive Management Strategy

cave floor is littered with dead batsDead bats that succumbed to White Nose Syndrome litter the cave floor, photo courtesy USGS

On August 1, 2013 the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region began implementing an  adaptive management strategy for white-nose syndrome on national forests and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kansas. The adaptive management strategy was developed based on concern about the spread of white-nose syndrome and its impacts to bat populations. The adaptive management strategy replaced emergency cave closures that were in place since 2010. 

Since 2013, white-nose syndrome has continued to spread in eastern North America and during March of 2016, the disease was confirmed in Washington. This observation on the west coast represents a jump in the distribution of WNS by more than 1300 miles. Based on the continued progression of the  disease in eastern North America, the confirmation of the disease in Washington, and continued concern about WNS impacts to bat populations, the Rocky Mountain Region is continuing to implement the adaptive management strategy. To date, neither WNS nor Pseudogymnoascus destructans (the fungus that causes WNS, previously called Geomyces destructans) is known to occur in the Rocky Mountain Region. The adaptive management approach includes proactive measures to limit the likelihood of introducing the fungus to caves in the region and protect bat populations before the disease arrives.

Neither WNS nor the fungus that causes the disease has yet to be confirmed in the Rocky Mountain Region. The adaptive management approach includes proactive measures to limit the likelihood of introducing the fungus to caves in the region and protect bat populations before the disease arrives.

Information for Cavers

For national forests and grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region, most caves are open to public access with some important requirements and exceptions:

  1. Registration is required to access caves that are open. 
  2. Clothing and equipment used in states/provinces where white-nose syndrome is found or suspected are prohibited. The current map of states / provinces where white-nose syndrome has been confirmed can be found on by following this link on the WhiteNoseSyndrome.org  or WhiteNoseSyndrome- map web page.
  3. Decontamination procedures following US Fish and Wildlife Service protocols are required by everyone to enter any and all caves.
  4. All known cave hibernacula are closed during the winter hibernation period.

View required decontamination procedures, cave registration, and forest orders listing closed caves.

About White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in Bats

Since its discovery in 2006, WNS has caused the death of more than 5 million bats in eastern North America. The disease is caused by a fungus, Geomyces destructans, that was first documented in North America in New York during the winter of 2005-06. The fungus thrives in cool, moist environments common in caves and mines. These locations are also favored by bats when they hibernate each winter.

The spread of the fungus and disease is presumed to be largely based on bat-to-bat interactions, though it is possible humans can inadvertently spread the fungus to uninfected sites.  Spores of the fungus can persist outside cave environments and can be moved by way of clothing and equipment that has been in contact with the fungus in contaminated caves. Frequently asked questions.

Environmental Analysis

Ten of 11 units in the Rocky Mountain Region participated in the Environmental Assessment that compared 3 management alternatives for white-nose syndrome in the Region.  The WNS management objective is to reduce the potential for human introduction, the spread.  

All 10 Forest Supervisors selected the adaptive management alternative, which includes different management approaches (management “Tiers”) based on the status of WNS in the Rocky Mountain Region. Each management tier includes a combination of required and optional management actions designed to provide flexibility to meet local management needs.