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White-nose syndrome killing more bats

January 24, 2012
By

By Chris Erwin

White-nose syndrome is killing bats, lots of bats. Exactly how the disease spreads has been confounding researchers for years and has prompted caving bans in many areas.

The disease has continued to spread and has now reached western Kentucky and nearby Lawrence County in Ohio.

We reported on this problem last year, but the threat is only continuing to grow and in many areas bat population are being wiped out.

“This is likely the most significant disease threat to wildlife Kentucky has ever seen,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Dr. Jonathan Gassett. “It would be professionally irresponsible to take no action to stop or slow this disease. Bats are an important part of our natural environment, acting as pollinators and consuming mosquitoes and other insect pests across the landscape. We plan to aggressively manage this threat as it occurs in Kentucky in order to protect and conserve our bat populations.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as we approach another season of winter hibernating bat surveys,   USFWS biologists and their partners estimate that 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have now died from white-nose syndrome. Biologists expect the disease to continue to spread.

A bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

White-nose syndrome is decimating bat populations across eastern North America, with mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent at many sites. First documented in New York in 2006, the disease has spread quickly into 16 states and four Canadian provinces. Bats with WNS exhibit unusual behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside during the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines where they hibernate. Bats have been found sick and dying in
unprecedented numbers near these hibernacula.

“This startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that white-nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem facing our nation. Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S.
economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people,” said Fish and Wildlife Service
Director Dan Ashe. “We are working closely with our partners to understand the spread of this deadly disease and minimize its impacts to affected bat species.”

More than 140 partners, including tribal, state and federal biologists and bat researchers convened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the 2012 Northeast Bat Working Group meeting last week to discuss
challenges facing bat research, management and conservation. Coordinating with wildlife officials in Canada, the group discussed population-level impacts to hibernating bats and developed the
estimate of bats lost to WNS.

In addition to developing science-based protocols and guidance for land management agencies and other partners to minimize the spread of WNS, the USFWS has funded numerous research projects to support and assess management recommendations and improve our basic understanding of the dynamics of the disease.

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2 Responses to White-nose syndrome killing more bats

  1. Staff on February 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    White-nose syndrome spreads in Kentucky

    Feb. 6, 2012 Contact: Sunni Carr
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1-800-858-1549, ext. 4446

    FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has detected white-nose syndrome in bats at three Breckinridge County caves.
    Three common species – the Northern long-eared, tri-colored and little brown bat – have tested positive for white-nose syndrome, a disease of hibernating bats caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans
    . The caves, located northeast of Hardinsburg, are within a 20-mile radius of each other. The caves are privately owned and not open to the public.
    Confirmation of the disease was recently made by personnel at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia.
    Biologists are still assessing caves within the area to determine the extent of the infection. “Caves are very abundant in this particular area of the state and we are working diligently to canvas all known sites,” said Sunni Carr, Wildlife Diversity Coordinator for the department.
    With winter surveys just getting underway, it is unknown if there are more infected sites yet undetected in the state. Employees of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working collaboratively on local surveillance and monitoring of the disease since it was first detected in New York state in 2006.
    “By having a state white-nose syndrome response plan in place, it has allowed us to quickly coordinate surveillance of known hibernacula,” said Brooke Hines, state bat ecologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Local grottos (caving clubs) have been a tremendous help with this endeavor.”
    “We have assisted Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for many years with cave surveys,” noted Glenn Driskell, a caver with the Fort Knox Grotto.
    Last winter, department biologists surveyed approximately 100 caves throughout the state as part of its intense monitoring protocol. At the end of the survey season, white-nose syndrome was confirmed in a cave located in Trigg County, in southwestern Kentucky. This was the first documentation of the disease in the state.
    Although white-nose syndrome is not a threat to humans, pets or livestock officials are still working to educate anyone who may enter a cave on the proper decontamination protocol. Decontamination helps to prevent human movement of the disease throughout the landscape. Ways that people can help reduce the risk of accidental spread of the disease can be found online at the website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/cavers.html.
    White-nose syndrome is estimated to have killed between 5.7 million to 6.7 million cave-dwelling bats in eastern North America. Mortality rates of bats have reached almost 100 percent in caves infected for several years. Infections have been confirmed in 16 states, mostly in the eastern U.S., and four Canadian provinces.

    ADDITIONAL MEDIA CONTACT:

    Ann Froschauer
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    (413) 253-8356
    ann_froschauer@fws.gov

    ###

    Ann Froschauer
    National White-Nose Syndrome Communications Leader
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    300 Westgate Center Drive
    Hadley, MA 01035-9589
    413.253.8356 (o)
    413.658.4493 (c)
    413.253.8456 (f)

    http://www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome/
    http://twitter.com/USFWS_WNS
    http://www.facebook.com/usfwswns
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/collections/72157626455036388/

  2. Staff on July 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Update!!
    July 9, 2012 Contact: Jeremy Coleman, 413-253-8223
    Ann Froschauer, 413-253-8356

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Awards Grants to 30 States
    for White-Nose Syndrome Work

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced grant awards totaling $962,981 to thirty states for white-nose syndrome (WNS) projects. State natural resource agencies will use the funds for surveillance and monitoring of caves and mines where bats hibernate, preparing state response plans and other related projects.

    “Grants like these provide essential support to our state partners in responding to white-nose syndrome,” said Dr. Jeremy Coleman, the Service’s national WNS coordinator. “Responding to the rapid spread and severity of this disease has been difficult for state agencies and other partners. Providing funds directly to states helps to improve capacity for response within those states, but also provides support for critical research projects and strengthens our national response effort overall.”

    White-nose syndrome has devastated bat populations across eastern North America. First documented in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, the disease has spread into 19 states and four Canadian provinces. Service biologists and partners estimate that WNS has killed more than 5.5 million bats.

    The Service is leading a cooperative effort with federal and state agencies, tribes, researchers, universities and other non-government organizations to research and manage the spread of WNS. In addition to developing science-based protocols and guidance for land management agencies and other partners to minimize the spread of WNS, the Service has funded numerous research projects to support and assess management recommendations and improve our basic understanding of the dynamics of the disease.

    Funding for grants was provided through Endangered Species Recovery funds. Proposals were received from 31 states requesting $1,183,480. All eligible requests were given at least partial awards, ranging from $14,646 to $50,000, for a total of $962,981 in grant funds.

    Additional information about WNS, the international disease investigation, and research can be found on the new partner-oriented WNS website, http://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/. The site contains the most up-to-date information and resources from partners in the WNS response, current news and links to social media.

    America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. We are working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. Learn more about the Endangered Species Program at: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

    The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov. For more information on white-nose syndrome, visit http://www.whitenosesyndrome.org. Connect with our white-nose syndrome Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/usfwswns, follow our tweets at http://www.twitter.com/usfws_wns, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/collections/72157626455036388/.

    -FWS-
    WNS Grants to States
    2012 Final Awards
    State Final Award
    Alabama $ 26,250.00
    Colorado $ 24,000.00
    Delaware $ 20,000.00
    Georgia $ 21,000.00
    Hawaii $ 40,622.00
    Idaho $ 24,000.00
    Illinois $ 27,580.00
    Indiana $ 23,600.00
    Iowa $ 25,500.00
    Kentucky $ 32,000.00
    Maine $ 24,099.00
    Maryland $ 48,000.00
    Michigan $ 49,500.00
    Minnesota $ 38,900.00
    Mississippi $ 25,847.00
    Missouri $ 20,000.00
    New Hampshire $ 14,646.00
    New Jersey $ 50,000.00
    North Carolina $ 47,500.00
    Ohio $ 46,050.00
    Oregon $ 24,000.00
    Pennsylvania $ 26,000.00
    Rhode Island $ 22,819.00
    Tennessee $ 50,000.00
    Utah $ 24,000.00
    Vermont $ 22,000.00
    Virginia $ 50,000.00
    Washington $ 22,568.00
    West Virginia $ 42,500.00
    Wisconsin $ 50,000.00
    Total $ 962,981.00

    ###

    Ann Froschauer
    National White-Nose Syndrome Communications Leader
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    300 Westgate Center Drive
    Hadley, MA 01035-9589
    413.253.8356 (o)
    413.658.4493 (c)
    413.253.8456 (f)

    http://www.WhiteNoseSyndrome.org
    http://twitter.com/USFWS_WNS
    http://www.facebook.com/usfwswns
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/collections/72157626455036388/

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