Department of Parks
Crawlathon At Carter Caves State Resort Park Cancelled Due To Bat Disease Concerns
OLIVE HILL, Ky. – The Kentucky Department of Parks announced today that the annual Crawlathon at Carter Caves State Resort Park scheduled for Jan. 23-25 is being cancelled because of concerns about the spread of a disease that is fatal to bats.
The decision follows a recommendation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the event could pose a threat to bat populations in caves at the park because of “White-nose Syndrome,” a disease that has killed thousands of hibernating bats in several Northeastern states. The name comes from a white fungus that appears around the noses of some affected bats.
The Crawlathon is an annual event that includes special cave tours, educational programs and seminars. Approximately 600 people had registered for the event.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking cavers to take precautions -- such as decontaminating clothing and cave gear -- to help prevent the spread of the disease, although the cause is not known. No cases have been reported in Kentucky.
Caves at the Northeastern Kentucky state park are home to two-thirds of the state’s hibernating population of Indiana bats, a federally endangered species.
“We’re obviously very disappointed about having to cancel this popular event,” said state park Commissioner Gerry van der Meer. “But after our discussions with fish and wildlife officials we decided it would be very difficult to take all of the precautions necessary to adequately protect these animals with the large numbers of guests we expected.”
The Department of Parks had been working with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources on plans to limit the spread of the disease through decontamination steps for Crawlathon guests. However, in recent weeks, the disease was discovered in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, bringing the number of states where WNS is now confirmed to six since its discovery in February 2007. The other states are New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“I’ve been monitoring this situation through conversations with Fish and Wildlife officials from the start,” said state Rep. Robin Webb, who represents Carter County. “I hate that we have to cancel the event, but we have no choice but to follow the recommendation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and protect the resource.”
Those who made reservations for the event are being notified and having their payments refunded.
The Kentucky State Park System is composed of 52 state parks plus an interstate park shared with Virginia. The Department of Parks, an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, operates 17 resort parks with lodges -- more than any other state. Each year, Kentucky parks draw 7 million visitors and contribute $317 million to the economy. For more information on Kentucky parks, visit our Web site at http://www.parks.ky.gov