North Carolina closes caves and mine shafts to the public trying to protect declining bat populations. They are very sick and dying in record numbers.
“Entry into caves or mine shafts in the national park is prohibited until March 2015.
This closure has been initiated due to recommendations issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 5,700,000 cave dwelling bats have died from white-nose syndrome, and many more bats are at immediate risk.” per article titled Caves
“A bat with White-Nose Syndrome has white fungus growing on its nose, toes, and wing webbing. One of the most at-risk bat species is the Little Brown Bat, because it hibernates in caves where the fungus grows. A social bat that’s common on the East Coast, the Little Brown is one of the bats you’re likely to see swooping across the sky at dusk. Right now it numbers over 6.5 million, but scientists think that this entire species could be extinct in 20 or fewer years as White-Nose Syndrome spreads.” Cave Bats in Crisis