The fungus, called White Nose Syndrome, appears on bats' extremities as a chalky white substance and has been known to kill up to 90 percent of a cave population, U.S. Forestry biologist Dagmar Thurmond said. Thurmond said the fungus first appeared in New York in 2006 and has moved as far south as Virginia since.
"We don't know yet how it's spreading," she said. "There are many possibilities."
The closings will be in effect for one year and apply to any such sites in National Forests in the Southeast. Forestry officials said they would evaluate the situation after that time and decide whether to reopen the caves and mine shafts.
"I wouldn't call it unprecedented, but it's certainly unusual that we would go to these lengths," said Kent Davenport, acting supervisor for the state's National Forests. "I think it's appropriate."
Davenport said the closings have no affect on caves and abandoned mines on privately owned land.
Talladega National Forest biologist Jeff Gardner said there are three or four sites in the Shoal Creek and Talladega ranger districts that will be affected by the closings. Gardner said bat populations in the Talladega National Forest aren't as great as other areas in the state farther north.
Thurmond said no cases of White Nose Syndrome have been documented in Alabama so far. Some bats in the William B. Bankhead National Forest in the northwest part of the state were believed to have it, but test results came back negative, she said.
Davenport said there's circumstantial evidence that points to humans, caving gear and clothing as possible carriers of the fungus from cave to cave, but nothing is certain.
No reported human diseases have been attributed to the fungus, according to a statement by the U.S. Forest Service, but trends in the spread of the fungus point to outside interference.
"The way that it's moving and its rate indicates it's not just the bats themselves," Thurmond said.