WNS Confirmed at Missouri’s Onondaga Cave State Park
First suspected in a bat at the beginning of January, the bat was sent to U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin for confirmation.
Located in Missouri’s Crawford County, nearly 20,000 people visit Onondaga Cave every year.
To help minimize the risk to bats, since 2010 staff at the park have educated and screened visitors before each cave tour.
While the primary transmission method of WNS is bat to bat, scientists suspect that Geomyces destructans, the fungus that causes the disease, can be carried by humans on their clothing, footwear and caving gear.
As a result, visitors have been required to only wear clothing and bring equipment that has not been in another cave before. Furthermore, staff adjusted the tour season to avoid disturbing the bats while hibernating in the cave.
With WNS now confirmed in the cave, additional measures are now being planned for visitors to follow both before and after a cave tour to further help reduce the risk of cave-to-cave transmission of the fungus.
Like the National Park Service which earlier this month saw the confirmation of WNS at Mammoth Cave National Park, Missouri State Parks has a dual responsibility of preserving nature while providing opportunities for people to enjoy state parks.
White-Nose Syndrome confirmed in bat at Onondaga Cave [Missouri Department of Natural Resources]