James River / Warm Springs Forest District Report
Hot Springs, Va. – Area caves remain closed as scientists strive to find out what’s causing bat mortality
White Nose Syndrome is present from New York to Tennessee
Area caves remain closed as scientists strive to find out what’s causing bat mortality. This is District Ranger Patrick Sheridan from the James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts.
In February 2006 some forty miles west of Albany, New York, a caver photographed hibernating bats with an unusual white substance on their muzzles. He noticed several dead bats. More than 5.5 million hibernating bats have died since. Sick, dying and dead bats have occurred in unprecedented numbers in and around caves and mines from New York to Tennessee, including our areas of West Virginia and Virginia. In some hibernacula, 90 to 100 percent of the bats are dying. Biologists with state and federal agencies and organizations across the country are still trying to find the answer to the White Nose Syndrome.
Despite the continuing search to find the source of this condition by state and federal biologists, the cause of the bat deaths remains unknown, however some leads are encouraging. A newly discovered cold-loving fungus, Geomyces Destructans, invades the skin of bats. Scientists are exploring how the fungus acts and searching for a way to stop it. Who cares? Bats play an enormous ecological role controlling insects and pollinating plants. The decline of this mammal could represent a major change to ecological systems.
Severe to extreme drought worsened across much of the Western Great Basin and the southwest portions of the United States. The western fire season began early and is expected to be above average through September. Extreme to exceptional drought continued over a large portion of the southeast, but heavy rain from Tropical Storm Beryl significantly moderated those conditions. Heavier precipitation activity and the continued tropical development and rain impacts from these storms are expected to ease the drought conditions in the southeast. Elsewhere in the south, we anticipate an overall normal fire season through September.
Timber sale contracts are active on Back Creek Mountain in Bath County and on the So Big project in Alleghany County. Timber projects to be sold in 2012 include Mares Run in Bath County and the Tri County sale in Alleghany. Timber management areas being planned in 2013 and beyond are Little Mountain in Bath County, Mad Anne in Alleghany, Duncan Knob in Bath, Lime Kiln in Bath and Brattons Run in Rockbridge and Alleghany counties.