To All Cave users,
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has requested a moratorium of all caving activities in NE United States including Pennsylvania. Therefore we ask that you avoid caving until notified of modification of moratorium guidelines.
This update is to advise you all of the current catastrophic disease that is sweeping the North Eastern US and is killing hundreds of thousands of bats. Those of you with connections to the formal caving community have probably already heard of the White Nose Syndrome (WNS). For those who have not heard of WNS, it is a newly discovered fungus that inhabits cool, damp, cave environments and is killing bats.
It is not known how this syndrome is spread. It may be spread by cave soil that is transferred from cave to cave by cavers. Until officials know more, they need to presume this is a possible means by which the disease spreads. If it is carried from cave to cave by the bats themselves, there may be little that can be done to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome. Potential risks to humans are being assessed. Biologists are taking precautions - using sanitary clothing and respirators when entering caves -- to avoid spreading the disease in the process.
We estimate that more than 400,000 bats have died from WNS, including 25,000 federally endangered Indiana bats, and many more bats are at immediate risk. As of March 18, 2009, at least 60 hibernacula in nine states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia) are known to be affected by WNS.
The U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region has requested a moratorium, effective immediately, on all caving activity in states known to have hibernacula affected by WNS, and all adjoining states, unless conducted as part of an agency*-sanctioned research or monitoring project. Caves infected with the WNS fungus may not show any obvious signs of its presence, and we do not know the actual geographic distribution of all affected sites. Human activity in affected caves may cause fungal spores and particles to become airborne, thereby contaminating exposed materials and allowing for transport. This includes all the states from Maine to Ohio, to Tennessee and Kentucky inclusive.
Franklin County Grotto is supporting this moratorium and has already cancelled several grotto sponsored trips to Carnegie, Cleversburg Sink, Blacklog Cave and is suspending planning for other trips. The status of the moratorium will be reviewed periodically and the Caving community will be kept informed of any new guidance that emerges.