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U.S. Forest Service closes caves over bat-killing disease

Stay out of caves.

That's the message from the U.S. Forest Service, and even caver organizations, as bats continue to die from a mysterious disease called white-nose syndrome.

On Thursday, the Forest Service closed all caves in national forests in the southeast for a year. That includes the Daniel Boone National Forest, which has an estimated 1,000 caves.

"The closures will allow scientists and land managers time to work together and stop the fungus, learn how it spreads and how to best address it," said Liz Agpaoa, the forester in charge of the region that stretches from Oklahoma to Virginia and Florida.

Last month, caves in a national forests from New England to Missouri were closed.

White-nose syndrome is thought to have killed 500,000 bats since it was found in New York in February 2007. It since has spread to 10 other states.

It has not yet been found in Kentucky, but is in caves in West Virginia near the Virginia border.

In January, the annual crawlathon at Carter Caves State Resort Park was canceled because of fears that the disease might be introduced by the hundreds of people who usually attend the event.

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