Fungus Found At Maquoketa Caves - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Fungus Found At Maquoketa Caves

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A deadly bat disease has been found at Maquoketa caves. This same bat disease is responsible for the caves closing two year ago. The fungal disease is called "White Nose Syndrome"  and it's deadly for bats who hibernate in caves. The fungus was first discovered in 2006, and when Iowa DNR officials learned how dangerous it was for bats they closed the Maquoketa caves in 2010. The caves reopened to the public this April with new safety measures in place to prevent the spread of the dangerous bat disease. Now even more precautions will be taking place.

Researchers tested 15 bats out of Dance hall Cave, one of the most popular caves in Maquoketa. Researchers found one of those 15 bats was carrying low levels of the white nose syndrome

 "Now that we have some, from what I've been told, low levels of this disease on one bat that we sampled, we're going to prompt the importance of disinfecting their gear or making sure they aren't wearing the same clothing or gear into a different cave system," said DNR Officer Scott Dykstra.

The fungus can be easily spread just from going cave to cave. It grows in the cave system and can cling on to clothing, shoes or caving gear, and it's deadly for bats.

"The bats wake up and they fall back asleep, they wake up because of this irritant that's on them. Through the duration of the whole hibernation cycle and all those cycles of waking up, their metabolisms have jumped up they end up using too much of their food storage to survive through the whole hibernation period and they end up starving to death," said Dykstra.

So along with current prevention programs, where cave-goers listen to a 5-10 minute lesson on how to stop the transfer of the fungus, the small detection of the white nose fungus has prompted new measures.

"We'll be putting in place some anti fungal or mats that people will walk through to disinfect their boots and stuff, it's not going to disinfect their clothing, backpacks or helmets flashlights, but we need to stress the importance of going home and doing those precautionary things," said Dykstra.

The antibacterial mats should be in place at the Maquoketa Caves by next Monday.

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