Tag Archives: precaution

Bats, Caves, and White-Nose Syndrome

Weird! Cool! Bats!

Weird! Cool! Bats! [Image: www.nature.org/]

Bats are awesome. They are a crucial part of insect control, pollination, and seed dispersal within their environments. They’re adorable, they help mitigate mosquito populations, and they have suffered huge, tragic population losses over the last 10 years because of a fungus that is incredibly spreadable, Pseudogeomyces destructans (Pd).

Over six million bats have died because of white-nose syndrome (WNS), which is caused when Pd is present in a cave where bats are hibernating. The hibernating bats are understandably awoken by the discomfort of having a fungus growing on their faces, but being awake prematurely is terribly costly in terms of energy. The bat is supposed to be sleeping the winter away because its food sources are limited or nonexistent, and it will likely starve or die in pursuit of food in weather and temperatures they aren’t built to withstand.

Poor bat.

I don’t think any of us would get a good night’s rest with that kind of thing going on. [Image: www.whitenosesyndrome.org/]

All this to say: While WNS is spread mostly between bat neighbors, humans can contribute to the problem if explorers delve into a cave where Pd spores are present, and then without proper precautions, wear the same gear to an uninfected location. That is, even though human transmission is neither the primary mode of transmission between bat populations, nor very common, precautionary measures are a critical aspect of protecting a very important species, especially when we haven’t entirely figured out how to combat it.

Snack!

Dinner on the fly. [Image: www.scienceinseconds.com/]

If you’re an avid spelunker or cave explorer, especially on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada, you’ve probably already read up on the appropriate decontamination protocol for your subterranean equipment. But for those of you who are new to the activity, it’s best to think of white-nose syndrome as an invasive species. One should endeavor to avoid contact with an area where the fungus has been documented, and certainly contact with bats, regardless of the confirmed presence of the fungus or not.

Here at Pocket Ranger®, we support the noble spirit of subterranean exploration! It’s a great way to stay active in the year’s hottest months and is a fun and enriching way of experiencing an inverse of our lives above ground. But with the deadly proliferation of white-nose syndrome in American bat populations, there are responsibilities that cave explorers must recognize. Hopefully we all keep them in mind as we spelunk our way out of the oppressive summer heat.

Beach Safety

Ah, springtime, how we’ve missed you and your warm embrace so. With spring comes, of course, the warm weather, longer daylight hours, and eventually the long-awaited summer.

Sometimes it feels like summer is years away (especially lately here on the East Coast where we’ve been experiencing some not-very-spring-like temperatures and lots of rain), but in fact, summer is actually pretty close. And with summer brings two of our favorite things: sun and sand.

If you’re planning to make your way to the beach this summer, there a few things to keep in mind so you end up having a relaxing time outdoors. After all, what else is more relaxing than spreading out under an umbrella on the sand in front of the water? Beaches are practically made to be stress-free!

California beach.

Seriously, this photo just radiates “relaxation.” [Image: http://fineartamerica.com/]

Friends that swim together don’t get separated in dangerous riptides together.

Probably the most dangerous thing you can encounter at the beach are rip currents. They’ll pull and push you around, and before you know it, you’re farther from the beach than you feel comfortable being. A rip current can be deadly, so knowing how to look out for one and what to do if you find yourself caught in the tide is important for all beach-goers.

From the shore, you can see where riptides are occurring due to the sandy-colored areas where the current is pulling sand from the bottom as they form. You can also see darker water, which tells you that it may be a deeper area that a rip current has formed in. Oftentimes, you can see choppy water in those areas, and you may even see seaweed and foam moving in lines.

Swimming.

What are you waiting for? Get in that water! [Image: http://www.asiantour.com/]

The most important thing to remember if you get caught in a riptide is to not panic. If you feel yourself being pulled, you should swim perpendicular to that pull (typically this is parallel to the shoreline) until you don’t feel its tug any longer. If you can’t swim away from it, float until you no longer feel the pull and then make your way back to shore. Or if none of these options is feasible, wave your arms and call out to a lifeguard that you need help.

Relax. “Jaws” is not at all indicative of a normal beach experience.

Shark attacks are incredibly rare—you’ve probably heard the comparison that you have a higher chance of being struck by lightning or of being in a fatal car accident than you doing being attacked by a shark. In the U.S., there are an average of 16 shark attacks each year, with only one being fatal every two years.

But maybe it’s not the unlikely odds that scare you; maybe you’re just afraid of being unprepared, which is totally reasonable. So here’s what you can do if you find yourself near a shark.

Sharks with human teeth.

Another tip: Picturing sharks with human teeth makes them way less intimidating. [Image: http://distractify.com/]

Before you head into the water, you should avoid drawing attention to yourself in a way that might be appealing to a shark. That means don’t go into the water if you’re even slightly bleeding or menstruating, don’t wear bright colors or jewelry that could catch a shark’s eye, and don’t splash around excessively.

If you take all the proper precautions and still find yourself facing off with a shark, your best bet is to hit them in one of their sensitive areas (snout, eyes, or gills). Unlike how people say you should play dead if you’re attacked by a bear, you should fight against a shark with everything you have.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for sunscreen.

Sunscreen.

Putting sunscreen on might feel like a pain to do, but it’s even worse dealing with the aftermath of a bad sunburn. [Image: http://ryot.huffingtonpost.com/]

Melanoma is no joke, and beach-goers should be especially keen to apply generous amounts of sunscreen throughout the day when spending time at the beach. SPF 15 or higher is advised, depending on how easily you tend to burn. Additionally, keeping yourself in shady areas or wearing a hat are also helpful for avoiding excessive sunburn.

Prolonged exposure to the sun as well as dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or even sun poisoning. You’ll know if you’re experiencing one of these illnesses if you feel dizzy, fatigued, have a headache, have muscle cramps, your skin is pale, you’re sweating a lot or not at all, your heart is racing, you have a fever, and through many other symptoms. If you think you have one of these conditions, remove unnecessary clothing, drink more water, cool off in a bath or shower, or seek a medical professional.

Fish are friends, not food. And also not something you should really mess around with in general.

Even though going to the beach is usually reserved for vacations or days off, it’s best to keep in mind that you’re in the home of many different ocean animals and plants. As always, go into a park or beach with respect for the wildlife that live there and for the environment that you’re also enjoying.

That being said, there are plenty of creatures that you’ll come across at the beach that you might want to avoid. This includes crabs, jellyfish, mussels, clams, and barnacles to name a few. If you don’t want to get scraped, stung, or pinched, then be careful of where you tread and swim!

Crabs everywhere.

Just watch where you step! [Image: https://www.reddit.com/]

Hopefully these tips are early enough to prepare you for beach season this year. Stock up now on sunscreen, sandals, bathing suits, umbrellas, and all the other fun things to take to the beach. And, as always, make sure to bring your Pocket Ranger® mobile apps with you to make exploring and relaxing even easier!