Rural Missouri - December 2011 - (Page 13)

O U T D O O R S Killer in the caves Hibernating bats face threat of fatal disease insects in all. In addition to insect control, entire cave ecosystems in Missouri are dependent on nutrient ollywood horror films have long depicted input from the guano that bats bats as villains. But in the past five years, a deposit in the caves. “There are new disease has turned the tables on these some unique species that live on winged creatures, which are now the helpthe guano piles,” explains Shelly less victims facing their own real-life horror show. Colatskie, MDC’s interim cave Since 2006, at least 1 million bats have died in ecologist. “Some cave animals feed the eastern United States and Canada from whiteon the guano, and other animals nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that atfeed on those critters. Everything tacks while bats hibernate in caves. Believed to be from cave crickets, millipedes and introduced from Europe, no cure exists. Infection is pseudoscorpions to grotto salaessentially a death sentence — 80 to 100 percent of manders and cave fish would be bats that contract white-nose syndrome die. affected if the bats disappear.” First identified in New York, the disease has Missouri has more than 6,500 steadily moved through bat populations in the known caves. Most wild caves Northeast, down through the Appalachians and on public land — including state headed west. While the disease hasn’t been conparks, conservation areas, Nafirmed in Missouri yet, the fungus that causes it, tional Park Service property and Geomyces destructans, has been detected here, and the Mark Twain National Forest researchers are expecting the worst. — have been closed indefinitely. “We don’t think there’s anything that’s going to Most public show caves are still stop it from getting here,” says Tony Elliott, a bat open, though the season has been ecologist with the Missouri Department of Conserrestricted to help the bats recover. vation. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.” Elliott says that while bat-toOf the 15 species of bats that can be found in Missouri Department of Conservation researchers Tony Elliott and Shelly bat transfer is the most likely way Missouri, nine are vulnerable to WNS. These include Colatskie inspect a gated cave entrance in Laclede County. This winter, they WNS is spread, people can carry both common species, such as the little brown bat will monitor the state’s bat populations for signs of white-nose syndrome. the spores on their clothes and and big brown bat, and endangered species, such as equipment and inadvertently the gray bat and Indiana bat. The cold-loving fungus introduce the disease into a cave. Human disturgrows on the nose, ears and wings of bats as they to enter 20 to 25 caves across the state looking for bance in a cave also could add more stress to already hibernate. Elliott says the syndrome rouses the bats signs of WNS. In addition to sampling the air for infected bats while they hibernate. from their winter slumber more often than usual, fungal spores and conducting a visual inspection, “We’re trying to figure out if causing them to use up their the researchers will physically swab some bats to there’s something we can do to fat reserves and starve to death determine if the disease is present. Elliott says MDC intervene in this,” he says. “In before spring arrives. also plans to increase cave entrance visits and learn the meantime, we don’t need to The loss of substantial numas much as possible before the syndrome strikes. be contributing to the increased bers of bats could be detrimenThough the future currently looks bleak for Misspread of it through human tal to both Missouri’s agriculsouri’s bats, Elliott hasn’t given up. activity.” ture and forestry industries. As “You just hope there’s something different here Those who enter caves on the main predator of nightthat allows our bats a chance,” he says. “Maybe private property are strongly flying insects, it’s estimated that being a little farther south or having a different huencouraged to follow a deconbats contribute $961 million midity in our caves will make a difference, or maybe tamination protocol to prevent in insect control to agriculture nature will figure out how to handle it. photo by Ryan von Linden, New York DEC the spread of WNS — even if no in the state. Missouri’s 800,000 “You just have to hope.” signs of the disease are present. gray bats alone are responsible White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease Beginning in mid to late for eating 540 tons of insects Learn more about WNS and decontamination protothat grows on the nose, ears and wings of January, MDC researchers plan each year — about 223 billion cols at some bats, such as this little brown bat. H by Jason Jenkins Outdoor Notes T he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Ozark hellbender — one of the world’s largest salamanders — as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Native to the White River system in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, Ozark hellbenders can grow up to 2 feet long. The species’ populations have declined an estimated 75 percent since the 1980s, with fewer than 600 hellbenders remaining in the wild. It is believed numbers have dropped because of degraded water quality, habitat loss result- ing from impoundments, ore and gravel mining, sedimentation and collection for the pet trade. A fungal disease also puts the species at risk. Without action, these threats could lead to extinction of the Ozark hellbender within 20 years. To learn more about the federal listing, visit www. endangered. ••••• T photo courtesy of MDC hose who enjoy cooking with local and seasonal ingredients are sure to love a new collection of recipes published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Cooking Wild in Missouri” presents more than 100 kitchentested recipes that will inspire both beginner and advanced cooks to savor Missouri’s game, fish, nuts, fruits and mushrooms. The 200page book also features color photographs on nearly every page and tips to make time in the kitchen easy, efficient and fun. Author Bernadette Dryden also shares pointers on selecting the best ingredients and adapting recipes. “Cooking Wild in Missouri” sells for $15 and can be purchased at MDC Nature Shops or online at DECEMBER 2011 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - December 2011

Rural Missouri - December 2011
Table of COntents
Giggin’ on the Gasconade
A historic rumbling
Bent on perfection
Out of the Way Eats
Christmas country church tour
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Of two governments
Best of rural Missouri
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - December 2011