(02/24/2010)
Biologists from the WVDNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are reporting that white-nose syndrome (WNS) has been confirmed in a bat in Hellhole, Pendleton County.

The WVDNR says if the effects of WNS on the bats in Hellhole are similar to those seen elsewhere, biologists expect that WNS will devastate the bat population, including endangered species.

Hellhole is the largest and most important bat cave in the state. An estimated 200,000 bats spend the winter hibernating in the cave.

The cave is also important on a national level as it is designated critical habitat for two federally endangered species, the Indiana bat and the Virginia big-eared bat.

Hellhole supports nearly 13,000 Indiana bats and 5,000 Virginia big-ears.

The other bats in the cave are mostly the more common little brown bat.

This single cave supports more than 40 percent of the world's entire hibernating population of Virginia big-eared bats.

Hellhole is privately owned and is closed to the public.

WNS is estimated to have caused the death of more than 1 million bats during the past three years.


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