White-nose Syndrome Adaptive Management Strategy
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 strategy replaced emergency cave closures that were in place since 2010.
[Photo: Dead bats that succumbed to White Nose Syndrome litter the cave floor, photo courtesy USGS]
Proactive approach: 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.
For national forests and grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Region, most caves are open to public access with some important requirements and exceptions:
- Registration is required to access caves that are open.
- Clothing and equipment used in states/provinces where white-nose syndrome is found or suspected are prohibited. A current map of where white-nose syndrome has been confirmed is online at WhiteNoseSyndrome.org or WhiteNoseSyndrome- map
- Decontamination procedures following US Fish and Wildlife Service protocols are required by everyone to enter any and all caves.
- All known cave hibernacula are closed during the winter hibernation period.
View required decontamination procedures, cave registration, and forest orders listing closed caves.
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.
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.