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Bats, White-nose Syndrome, and the Western Maryland Railroad Tunnels

Michelle Carter - Natural Resource Program Manager NPS, C&O Canal National Historical Park

White-nose Syndrome (WNS), Pseudogymnoascus destructans,  is a fungal disease the affects the skin of hibernating bats and has a high mortality rate. WNS has been found in caves in Maryland’s three western-most counties. The three abandoned railroad tunnels along the Western Maryland Railroad are the only known bat hibernacula that show no signs of WNS and these fall within  C&O Canal’s boundaries.  C&O Canal is an important bat habitat since it is a forested area along the Potomac River and nine different species of bat have been recorded in the park. The fact that the only three hibernacula free of WNS fall within its boundaries calls for the tunnels to protected from any unnecessary disturbance. Currently, one tunnel is gated and construction on another will start in 2016. C&O Canal and MD DNR are partnering to continue studies of the tunnels and monitoring the status of WNS with in them.

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