Devastating Bat-Killing Disease Spreads To Kentucky’s Cumberland Gap National Park

Monday, February 11, 2013

The devastating fungal disease that has already killed nearly seven million bats has struck Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky. Since a caver first documented white-nose syndrome in a cave in upstate New York in 2006, the epidemic has spread to a total of 19 states and at least four Canadian provinces.

“The arrival of white-nose syndrome in yet another national park is the latest chapter in this tragedy, which is threatening the very existence of several bat species,” said Mollie Matteson, a bat advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“This is the 10th national park in the United States now at risk of losing its bats — and all the services they provide to the places where they live.”

The bat disease, named for the white fuzz often found on the muzzles of sick bats, has been documented as far north as Ontario, as far south as Alabama and as far west as Missouri. Last week a bat suspected of having white-nose syndrome was found for the first time on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Park Service officials in Great Smoky Mountains National Park suspect that white-nose syndrome has struck hibernating bat populations in that park, as well. Bats at Great Smoky have been flying outside their hibernating sites this winter, a tell-tale symptom of the disease.

Biologists believe bats are a vector for the disease, but strong evidence also points to humans as a vector, particularly over long distances beyond the typical dispersal distance of bats; there is compelling evidence that people accidentally imported the disease from Europe. Cumberland Gap Park closed most of its caves to human access several years ago, to reduce the risk of spread by people, but Gap Cave remains open for tours.

The Center has been a strong proponent of measures to protect bats from the disease, including restricting nonessential human access to federal caves and mandating decontamination of gear if cave entry does occur. Diminished visitation reduces the risk of fungal spread and lessens disturbance of disease-stressed bats. No cure exists yet for the disease, which may eventually threaten roughly two dozen bat species.

In 2011 scientists estimated that the value of bats’ pest-control services to American farmers was $23 billion per year. Without bats, farmers may be forced to turn to chemical insecticides to keep insect pests at bay. Bats also eat insects that are pests on trees, and through their sheer numbers provide a crucial food source, with their droppings and their bodies, to other cave-dwelling species. Scientists worry that some of the rare and unusual cave organisms that depend on bats for their survival will also be at risk if bats disappear from large swaths of North America.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Biologists Continue To Study Southern Strain Brook Trout

When picturing something beautiful from nature, most wouldn’t call up the image of a brook trout, simply because of lack of familiarity with this fish. Thankfully, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) biologists do.  As a matter of fact, not only do they think this fish is pretty, they’re willing to hike for miles into rough backcountry, carrying heavy loads to ensure ... (click for more)

Alexander: Tennessee Receives $10 Million For Foothills Parkway To Improve Access To The Smokies

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that a $10 million federal transportation grant he supported will help complete a 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway in Blount and Sevier counties, improving access to the federally owned and operated Great Smoky Mountains National Park and “enhancing tourism and economic development” in East Tennessee. “I grew up hiking, ... (click for more)

Morning Fire Destroys Vacant Valleybrook House; 2 Firefighters Suffer Burns

Fire destroyed a vacant house in the Valleybrook Community early Thursday morning. The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm at 5:35 a.m. and responded to a reported fire at the Valleybrook Golf and Country Club off Hixson Pike. When the first firefighters from Station 19 arrived on the scene, they could not find the fire. Lt. Scott Sheets with Quint 19 said that ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Whiskey Company To Construct Large Distillery At Former Site Of Newton Chevrolet

The Chattanooga Whiskey Company has begun construction on a larger production distillery in the former Newton Chevrolet property at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Riverfront Parkway near the Tennessee River. Once fully operational, the Riverfront Parkway facility will be capable of producing upwards of 14 (53-gallon) barrels per day, making it one of the largest craft bourbon ... (click for more)

Judge Steelman Was Unfairly Criticized In Handling Of School Bus Driver Rape Case - And Response

We are blessed to have freedom of speech in our society, but I am always amazed at the number of folks who voice such strong antagonistic opinions about things without any apparent first-hand knowledge.   As any who wish to criticize the system should know, people get arrested and charged for criminal offenses every day.  The ultimate charge and penalty which results ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vote For Rhonda Thurman

After studying the Hamilton County School Board quite harshly during the last seven most-tumultuous months in its history, it is only proper that I share my belief that Rhonda is its Most Valuable Player. Four of the school board’s nine members are up for re-election, with Rhonda facing capable opponents in Jason Moses and Dr. Patti Skates in District 1, but let’s never forget that ... (click for more)