Flittermouse Grotto Policy Relating to WNS – April 2011
In 2009, shortly after the first request was made by governmental conservation agencies for a moratorium on caving, Flittermouse Grotto voluntarily decided that it would observe that policy and would not sponsor Grotto cave trips in North Carolina or elsewhere.
Despite the adoption and observation of the caving moratorium policy by governmental agencies, by private land managers and by Flittermouse and other grottos, the infestation has spread steadily southward, into and across Virginia and, in February 2011, it was confirmed in the North Carolina mountains.
In many of the caves and abandoned mines in which WNS has been identified, gates were in place, sometimes for years, before the infection appeared, and no cavers had access to those places for significant periods of time before the infection arrived. This fact argues convincingly that a caving moratorium is not effective in preventing the spread of the infection.
The moratorium has proved to be a serious impediment to our accomplishment of the Flittermouse mission. A vital component of our mission is the education of new cavers about the importance of caves and about the scientific, cultural and esthetic wonders that they contain. It is only when such individuals are able to participate regularly in the caving culture that they will gain an understanding of how diverse and important caves are, and it is only after they have gained that understanding that that will be truly receptive to the message of the need to protect and preserve all aspects of the subterranean world.
The opportunity to participate in cave trips is the primary reason that new cavers come into the Grotto, and regular caving trips are the only effective means of maintaining a strong and enthusiastic Grotto membership.
Because a caving moratorium has proven to be ineffective in preventing the spread of WNS, and because observance of the moratorium seriously interferes with our stated mission, Flittermouse Grotto has resumed Grotto sponsored cave trips, subject to the following restrictions:
- No Grotto trips will be conducted in counties in which WNS has not been confirmed.
- Grotto trips will observe all restrictions and policies that have been adopted by any landowner or land manager of any cave property to which a Grotto trip is proposed.
- All participants in any Grotto sponsored trip shall observe and implement the visitation policies and decontamination protocols recommended by the local Fish and Wildlife agency, or other conservation authority for the area in which the trip is conducted.
It is the responsibility of each individual caver to become informed about cave conservation issues, including WNS, and in the case of WNS, an area in which knowledge is changing rapidly, to seek out current and accurate information on how the impact of the disease may be reduced. It is the policy of Flittermouse Grotto to encourage each of its members to become more knowledgeable about WNS, about the impact it is having on bat populations and about reasonable and effective steps that can be taken in response to the crisis. Specifically, members are urged to regularly refer to dependable sources of information, such as the NSS WNS page and the USF&WS websites.
Members are urged to learn about and to become proficient in application of the most current decontamination procedures recommended by knowledgeable experts, which can be found through the NSS WNS page. Members are reminded that decontamination procedures do not render what is treated sterile and do not remove all trace of infection from clothing or gear. These procedures are, however generally accepted as the most effective method available and Flittermouse requires their use in connection with all Grotto sponsored trips.
These procedures, and the state of knowledge about the infestation itself, are constantly changing, and anyone concerned with keeping their knowledge current should regularly consult the on-line sources.