White-Nose Syndrome Management in the Rocky Mountain Region
Since its discovery in 2006, White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has caused the death of millions of bats in 35 U.S. states and seven Canadian provinces. The disease is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), 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. More information is available on the About WNS page.
Since 2013, WNS has continued to spread in eastern North America and during March of 2016, the disease was confirmed in Washington state. This observation on the west coast represents a jump in the distribution of WNS by more than 1300 miles. In the winter of 2017-2018, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) (the fungus that causes WNS), was detected and WNS was confirmed in the Rocky Mountain Region in southwestern South Dakota. In the winter of 2018-2019, Pd was presumed and WNS was suspected in southeastern Wyoming. By the winter of 2020-2021, WNS was confirmed in north-central Nebraska and northeastern Wyoming.
Based on the continued progression of the disease in eastern North America and within the Rocky Mountain Region and continued concern about WNS impacts to bat populations, on August 1, 2013, the USDA Forest Service began implementing an adaptive management strategy on national forests and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kansas that includes proactive measures to limit the likelihood of introducing the fungus to caves in the region and protect bat populations before the disease arrives. More details about the strategy are on the Adaptive Management page.
Most caves on the National Forests & Grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region are open to public access with some important requirements and exceptions of which to be aware. Please see the Information for Cavers page for more details about these requirements and downloadable cave access request forms:
- Registration is required to access caves that are open.
- Clothing and equipment used in states/provinces where white-nose syndrome or Pd is found or suspected are prohibited. A current map of where white-nose syndrome has been confirmed is online at WhiteNoseSyndrome.org.
- Decontamination procedures following the latest national WNS decontamination protocols (U.S.) are required by everyone to enter any and all caves.
- All known cave hibernacula are closed during the winter hibernation period.
[Photo on this page: Dead bats that succumbed to white-nose syndrome litter a cave floor, photo courtesy USGS]