DEADLY BAT DISEASE
UNPRECEDENTED BAT MORTALITY
WNS SPREADS IN THE U.S.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) has now spread across 23 U.S. states
White-nose syndrome (WNS) had killed an estimated 6.7 million bats by January 2012.
“White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a devastating disease of hibernating bats that has caused the most precipitous decline of North American wildlife in recorded history. It is caused by the fungus Psuedogymnoascus destructans, and is rapidly spreading through cave bat populations across the country causing unprecedented mortality.”
WNS has affected at least 11 cave-hibernating bats, including four endangered species and subspecies of insect-eating bats in the eastern and southern U.S., causing population declines of up to 100 percent, wild life officials said.
A cluster of little brown bats (Myotis lucifigus). Little brown bats often form clusters of up to hundreds of bats in order to maintain constant temperatures while hibernating. Source: Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources.
“In February 2006, some 40 miles west of Albany, New York, a caver photographed hibernating bats with an unusual white substance on their muzzles. He noticed several dead bats. The following winter, bats behaving erratically, bats with white noses and a few hundred dead bats in several caves came to the attention of New York biologists, who documented white-nose syndrome (WNS) in January 2007. Named after the distinctive white growth that appears on the nose and wings of affected bats, WNS reached Wisconsin in spring 2014.”
Human Health and Economy
Bats play a vital role in the ecosystems by eating insects and pests that can damage crops, forests and transfer diseases like West Nile Virus. Several of the upper Midwest’s largest bat hibernation sites, estimated to host about half a million bats, are found in Wisconsin.
“[WNS] has significant environmental, economic and public health implications. Insectivorous bats consume large numbers of agricultural pests, which cost farmers and foresters billions of dollars yearly. Bats play an important role in sustaining many unique and fragile cave ecosystems. For example, bats are the primary source of nutrients in many cave systems, and many cave-obligate species depend on such input for survival. Thus, the loss or significant reduction of bat populations from caves could have cascading affects that impact the status of many other cave species.”
WNS is mainly spread from bat to bat, but the spores can also be transported by humans from fungus contaminated sites to healthy bat colonies.
Little brown bats in a hibernation cave in New York show fungal growth on their muzzles. Bats have been dissappearing at alarming rates due to white-nose syndrome, which scientists now know is caused by a specific fungus. (Photo Credit: Nancy Heaslip, New York Department of Environmental Conservation)
WNS Spread Map