Feb. 16, 2013 —
Ainsley said the park will be meeting with U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and Kentucky State Nature Preserve officials to discuss the way forward.
“We’re just going to go over stuff and see if there is any new research that has been done, see what other agencies are doing. We just want to make sure we’re up to snuff,” said Ainsley.
The infection of bats at Carter Caves does not appear to be severe at this point, but is expected to spread among the populations at the park with infection and mortality rates picking up each year, said Ainsley.
“It’s just a matter of time. The bats are intermingling with one another, it’s just going to become more widespread,” he said.
“Right now, it looks like just the first year (of infection). Normally from year to year it’s going to be worse. More and more are going to be affected. Around the third year, you see around 80 percent mortality,” he said.
As that begins to happen, Ainsley said, there will be more visible evidence of the disease. As the disease grows worse, bats begin to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during cold winter months. They become irritated, wake from hibernation and move toward the entrances of caves or begin flying around foraging in the cold months and freeze to death.
“It’s sad because bats are a great thing to have around for us,” Ainsley said. “They help control those insects that not only bite us at night but affect our crops. They kept things in check. They are cool critters. You just want to go in there, grab them and take them to safety.”
Ainsley said the park will continue to educate the public about the disease and encourage donations to help researchers determine its cause and find a potential cure.
For more information on the disease, its spread and ongoing research, visit whitenosesyndrome.org.