The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have reported a low level of fungus (Geomyces Destructans) that causes white-nose syndrome has been found in a cave at Devil’s Den State Park and a private cave in southern Baxter County.
“At this time we do not have any disease, no bats inside our park at this time are affected by this disease, but we do have the fungus,” said Park Superintendent, Monte Fuller.
White-nose syndrome is responsible for the deaths of millions of bats across the country, particularly in the northeastern U.S. and Canada.
No bat deaths due to white-nose syndrome are known to have occurred in Arkansas.
The fungus gets on the wings and nose of the bats which keeps them awake when they should be hibernating during the winter, according Tim Scott, Devil’s Den State Park Assistant Superintendent.
“Basically what they`ll end up doing is use all of their reserves or foods, stored food energy and can cause them, in a sense to starve,” said Scott.
“The mortality rate of this disease is about 95 percent,” added Fuller.
In 2010, the park closed the caves to as a precautionary measure.
Park officials said the fungus is not harmful to humans, but if the fungus gets on your clothes or shoes it can spread to other caves.
“We can go in and actually handle the fungus unless you have just an odd allergy or something but it`s not going to affect you in any manner,” said Fuller.
Scott said bats are important to the area as they control the amount of insects.
“Obviously bats are very important to our eco system not only in our area in particular they eat a lot of pests, mosquitos, and moths and things like that,” said Scott.
Devil’s Den State Park has eight different species of bats, two of which are on the endangered species list.