that it is temporarily closing most of the state's 175 caves found in public parks and historic sites.
The closure comes as biologists attempt to stop the spread of White Nose Syndrome
, a fungus blamed for the deaths of millions of bats across the northeastern United States.
The disease was first discovered in Missouri last month and causes infected bats to awaken more often during winter hibernation and fly outside in search of food. This activity uses up stored fat reserves needed to get them through the winter and they usually freeze or starve to death.
All but four caves in Missouri state parks will be closed until at least mid-July, the exceptions being:
Onondaga Cave and Cathedral Cave at Onondaga Cave State Park, Fisher
Cave at Meramec State Park, and Ozark Caverns at Lake of the Ozarks
"We realize closing our bat caves will be an inconvenience for many
cave explorers but we feel this is the best interim measure to protect
bats and our cave ecosystems from a serious threat," says Bill Bryan, director of the department's Division of State Parks.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources