Halloween is just around the corner, but what would the tradition be like without bats, the nocturnal flyers that almost epitomize the holiday? In the Northeastern U.S. a strange disease, known as White Nose Syndrome has been plaguing bats since it was discovered in one New York cave in 2006. Today, the malady has spread to 81 caves in 9 different states, decimating bat populations in most colonies it attacks.
Biologists have so far been unable to determine what causes White Nose Syndrome, named for the white fungus that mysteriously appears on the noses of bats, or how to treat afflicted bats. In fact, some scientists suggest that this winter could determine the future of bats, whether any treatment will be discovered or if the syndrome will spread to other parts of the country.
We may not know what causes White Nose Syndrome or how to stop it, but you can help by not visiting caves that are known to have bats suffering from the disease (in fact, some states have closed off all of their caves to cavers) and by washing your clothes and equipment after entering any cave.
For more information, you can read Mother Nature Network's excellent article about White Nose Syndrome
, and for current news and cave closures you can visit the National Speleological Society's White Nose Syndrome Page