Front Range

Taking Flight

October 2011

Bats have long been demonized as symbols of Halloween lore (or worse), but the critters themselves have been dying of disease at an alarming rate in parts of the country—and the problem could spread to the Rockies. Colorado is home to 18 species of bats, and in a twist fit for a Batman movie, wildlife officials fear that humans may be transmitting a disease called white-nose syndrome—fatal to bats (not to people)—via fungal spores carried on shoes, gear, and clothing. The white fungus infects bat appendages and awakens the animals prematurely from hibernation, which ultimately causes starvation because the spring insects on which they feed have not emerged. So, much to the disappointment of high-country spelunkers, the U.S. Forest Service issued a protective emergency order in July to close all caves and abandoned mines on National Forest land in the Rocky Mountain region for a full year. Long live the Bat Cave.