Threat Of Bat Disease Forces Cave Closures

Las Cruces – The Bureau of Land Management is closing more than two dozen caves in southern and central New Mexico to reduce the threat of a fungus that has wiped out entire bat colonies in the eastern United States.

BLM officials announced Tuesday that 28 caves managed by the agency around Carlsbad, Roswell, Las Cruces, Socorro and Rio Puerco will be closed to the public for the next two years in response to white-nose syndrome.

First spotted in New York in 2006, the disease has been confirmed in dozens of hibernating locations in Canada and the U.S., ranging as far south as Tennessee and west to Oklahoma.

BLM officials say the closure notice is a continuation of an interagency effort that started last fall to protect New Mexico's bats from the fungus.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.