This summer we took our family to Bend, Oregon for some outdoor adventure. This amazing town in Central Oregon’s High Desert is surrounded by volcanic peaks and pillars, cinder cones and buttes, lava flows and lakes. It is the perfect home to 15 species of bats.
Just outside of Bend is US Forest land and the Newberry Volcano. This volcano created the “land of lava” here when it erupted nearly 6000 years ago. In one location layers of molten lava cooled and harden, while the interior lave flow rushed hot, leaving behind an empty shell today known as Lava River Cave, one of the longest lava tubes in the Northwest and a great breeding ground for bats. There was no chance we were going to skip this.

Before our trek through the tube we were greeted by a Forest Ranger. She asked if any of us had ever been spelunking before back east, and if so, were we wearing or carrying anything we had with us during those previous treks. The reason we were asked these questions was simple, White Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is responsible for significant bat mortality in eastern North America. In the western United States WNS has not yet been reported. Knowing we were from the east this ranger was very concerned we would expose healthy bats living in the lave tube to this deadly disease.

The US Forestry takes White Nose Syndrome very seriously. My children and I received an extremely thorough briefing on how we as humans can spread the disease and what we can do to protect these amazing creatures. If we enter a cave with anything that may have been exposed to the fungus spores we can inadvertently leave some behind to spread and expose healthy bats who will then transmit it to other bats and so on.

Just washing our clothing and cleaning our equipment is not enough to kill these deadly spores. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  recommends one of the following cleaning products:

  • Lysol IC Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner
  • Professional Lysol Antibacterial All-purpose Cleaner
  • Formula 409 Antibacterial All-purpose Cleaner
  • 10% solution of household bleach: 1 part bleach to 9 parts water
  • Boiling in water for 15 minutes

Following visiting any cave and before entering another the same source recommends the following cleaning procedures:

  • Clothing and other gear that can be submersed – Wash in washing machine or by hand with conventional detergents. Rinse thoroughly and then follow by soaking for a minimum of 10 minutes in one of the above products, rinse and air dry.
  • Footwear – Boots need to be fully scrubbed and rinsed. Decontaminate leather or rubber boots with a product listed above for a minimum of 10 minutes, rinse and air dry.
  • Gear/equipment – Clean with soap (i.e. Dawn antibacterial dish soap) and water then apply one of the above products to outside surface for a minimum of 10 minutes, rinse and air dry.

Please, if you are exploring caves consider the bats and how you can make a difference in protecting them.

For more information please visit Bug Off Pest Control Centers website, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter!

Written by guest blogger, Terri Mason, How To Go Social

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