Little Brown Bat species is facing extinction due to White-Nose Syndrome. National Park's Whiteoak Sink area will remain closed for public to prevent the spread of disease
Smoky Mountains National Park is closing one of its areas until next spring to protect bat population from further decline. The closure will come into effect from September through March next year.
The national park is one of the most popular destinations for hikers as well as for the bats. The park is a home to bat species known as Little Brown Bats and more than 6.5 million bats were reported in the area in early 2000. The concerning issue is that bat population has rapidly decreased over the years and it may face extinction in the next couple of decades because of the spread of a deadly disease White-Nose Syndrome.
The park management announced on Friday that park’s Whitoak Sink area will be closed from September through March next year for hikers and other visitors. This is to prevent the spread of disease among bats since humans can become a source to spread WNS. This is not the first time when park has been closed for public visit for a certain period of time. The park was also shut down in September last years and in 2009 as well.
“We first confirmed the presence of WNS in the park in 2010,”said park wildlife biologist Bill Stiver in a statement last year. “The impact has been devastating. We estimate that some of our cave-dwelling bat populations have already declined by 80% and we are doing everything we can to both slow the spread of disease and protect the remaining animals by closing caves and area caves near to the public.”
The Little Brown Bats hibernate in caves and mines and a closure will protect both bats and caves from human interaction and limit the spread of WHS. The infected bats are marked by fungus growing on nose, toes and wings. The bats suffering from WHS also display unusual behavior including flying erectly during the day and diving down toward the people.
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Bats play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance as they eat many flying insects including moths, beetles and mosquitoes. The decline in their population means thousands and thousands of more insects.