Target: Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the US National Park Service
Goal: Prevent humans from spreading a bat-killing fungus throughout park cave systems
A fungus called Geomyces destructans, discovered in New York in 2006, has killed millions of bats across the eastern United States and Canada in at least 22 states and 7 provinces. South Carolina was the latest state added to the list. The fungus attacks parts of a bat’s body not covered with hair, such as its wings and nose – hence the disease’s nickname, the “white-nose syndrome” (WNS). Once the fungus attacks a bat, the animal has a very slim chance of survival. Over seventy percent of those infected die. So far, scientists have not discovered a way to treat the fungus, which attacks mostly bats in hibernation in cold climates.
The fungus is clearly spread from infected bats to healthy bats, but some experts fear humans are also spreading the disease. It is possible that human activity in bat habitats is increasing the spread. Many of the most recent fungus discoveries have been in tourist hotspots, like the discovery last month in Virginia’s Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Since bats travel throughout an entire cave system rather than remain in one individual cave, the spread of fungus is inevitable.
Without bats, insects will proliferate unchecked and destroy agricultural crops, resulting in a loss of almost $4 billion annually. Ask the National Park Service to close bat habitats to the public until the spread of the WNS fungus abates.
Dear Mr. Jarvis,
The bat-killing fungus Geomyces destructans, also known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) is quickly spreading across the eastern United States and Canada. Experts believe that the spread might be related to human activities in popular bat habitats, such as caves found in the national park system. Once the fungus has entered even one cave in a system, it is spread by bats throughout the entire area. Bats who contract the fungus rarely survive and are often in hibernation when infected. As of yet, scientists find the fungus untreatable.
This fungus, discovered only seven years ago in New York state, has now spread throughout 22 states and seven Canadian provinces. It is quickly becoming an epidemic. The destruction of bat populations has wide-ranging effects on the human environment. Bats are a key defense against agricultural pests. The current loss of bats will cost farmers an estimated $4 billion per year due to an increase in the insect population. Until the problem abates, I ask you to please close cave habitats to the public.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: J.N. Stuart via flickr