Subjects: Public health
When scientists reported that sun-splashed vacations stimulate nevi development in kids and that nevi counts predict lifetime skin cancer risk, some figured maybe caving is the way to go for a solar-free, wholesome family interlude.
But that’s not going to work now that federal officials have warned people to stay out of caves from New Hampshire to West Virginia, where up to half a million bats have died from White Nose syndrome.
The Fish and Wildlife Service issued the unprecedented request after raising the possibility that humans were unwittingly spreading the fungal infection when they explored multiple caves.
The disease does not appear to affect people, so this is strictly a Save the Bats deal.
The bizarre bat condition is named for the granular fungal eruptions that appear on the schnozzles and wings of hibernating bats.
Somehow the fungus causes afflicted bats to deplete their winter fat stores prematurely and they die in their sleep.
Scientists worry that a massive bat die-off could trigger an insect population bomb which could damage apple, wheat and a dozen other crops.
The proposed voluntary moratorium on caving would cover states adjacent to affected areas, so the affected swath actually stretches from Maine to North Carolina and Virginia to Ohio.
Recreational cavers were bewildered by the scope of the ban.
“The ramifications are mind-boggling. I guess we’re all just trying figure out what to do,” Peter Youngbaer, the White Nose syndrome liaison for the National Speleological Society told the New York Times.