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Podcast spreads the word about threat to Smokies’ bats

A podcast released by Great Smoky Mountains National Park outlines efforts to save bats from White-nose syndrome, a potentially fatal disease sweeping through the Smokies’ bat population.

The park is home to at least 11 species of bats, a primary group of flying mammals that play a critical role in the health of ecosystems by consuming forest and agricultural crop insects — such as moths, beetles and mosquitoes.

In the winter of 2010, two bats in a park cave tested positive for a newly described fungus, Geomyces destructans, which is thought to be the cause of White-nose syndrome.

To help prevent the unintentional spread of the fungus, the park closed all of its 16 caves and two mine complexes to people in 2009.

In addition to the podcast, a new bat exhibit has been installed at the park’s Sugarlands Visitor Center.

“The educational materials provide a wealth of information on bat biology, their roosting and foraging behavior, the potential implications of white-nose syndrome and what researchers and biologists are doing to manage this threat, as well as how the public can help protect bats,” said Bill Stiver, park wildlife biologist.

Produced by Great Smoky Mountains Association, the podcast is posted on the park’s website, www.nps.gov/grsm/photosmultimedia/wns-bat-video.htm.

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