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Hoosier National Forest closes caves to visitors

BEDFORD, Ind. (AP) – The Hoosier National Forest is keeping its caves closed to park visitors in an effort to slow the potential spread of fungal disease that’s killed millions of North American bats.

Staff at the 200,000-acre national forest that spans several southern Indiana counties first closed the caves in 2011 in an effort to protect bats from white-nose syndrome.

That fungal disease doesn’t affect humans or other animals but it repeatedly interrupts bat hibernation, sapping their energy and fat stores, which can cause starvation and dehydration.

Infected bats have been found in most caves on and around the Hoosier National Forest property.

Forest Supervisor Mike Chaveas says continuing the park’s cave closures will help slow potential spread of the disease by limiting human access to the caves.