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"The Worst Wildlife Disease Outbreak in North American History"

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posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 05:40 PM
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USGS National Wildlife Health Center

I have followed this issue from nearly the beginning, and in the course of the last five years, it seems there is LESS attention on the problem, rather than more. Indeed, it still surprises me how few people even seem to know anything about it at all.

As the map above indicates, the progression of this nearly always fatal bat disease seems relentless and continues westward. So far, there seems little end in sight. We are witnessing an extinction level event right under our noses. (Pardon the bad platitude/pun/whatever you call it...)




White-Nose Syndrome (WNS)

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 25 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. ...The disease is named for the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats. In April 2014, WNS was confirmed in Michigan and Wisconsin.

...

Current estimates of bat population declines in the northeastern US since the emergence of WNS are approximately 80%. This sudden and widespread mortality associated with WNS is unprecedented in hibernating bats, among which disease outbreaks have not been previously documented. It is unlikely that species of bats affected by WNS will recover quickly because most are long-lived and have only a single pup per year. Consequently, even in the absence of disease, bat populations do not fluctuate widely in numbers over time.

The true ecological consequences of large-scale population reductions currently under way among hibernating bats are not yet known. However, farmers might feel the impact. In temperate regions, bats are primary consumers of insects, and a recent economic analysis indicated that insect suppression services (ecosystem services) provided by bats to U.S. agriculture is valued between 4 to 50 billion dollars per year.



In a 2011 study about the economic importance of bats:




Although much of the public and some policy-makers may view the precipitous decline of bats in North America as only of academic interest, the economic consequences of losing so many bats could be substantial. For example, a single colony of 150 big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) in Indiana has been estimated to eat nearly 1.3 million pest insects each year, possibly contributing to the disruption of population cycles of agricultural pests. Other estimates suggest that a single little brown bat can consume 4 to 8 g of insects each night during the active season, and when extrapolated to the one million bats estimated to have died from WNS, between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects are no longer being consumed each year in WNS-affected areas.

...

If we assume values at the extremes of the probable range, the value of bats may be as low as $3.7 billion/year and as high as $53 billion/year. These estimates include the reduced costs of pesticide applications that are not needed to suppress the insects consumed by bats. However, they do not include the "downstream" impacts of pesticides on ecosystems, which can be substantial, or other secondary effects of predation, such as reducing the potential for evolved resistance of insects to pesticides and genetically modified crops. Moreover, bats can exert top-down suppression of forest insects, but our estimated values do not include the benefit of bats that suppress insects in forest ecosystems because economic data on pest-control services provided by bats in forests are lacking. Even if our estimates are halved or quartered, they clearly show how bats have enormous potential to influence the economics of agriculture and forestry.

Source (*pdf)



Since 2006, nearly 7 million bats have already died from WNS in US and Canada. (Link.)



An estimated 6.7 million bats have died since 2006 because of an outbreak of white-nose syndrome, a fast-moving disease that has wiped out entire colonies and left caves littered with the bones of dead bats. The epidemic is considered the worst wildlife disease outbreak in North American history and shows no signs of slowing down. It threatens to drive some bats extinct and could do real harm to the pest-killing services that bats provide, worth billions of dollars each year, in the United States.

...

Typically, the disease kills 70 percent to 90 percent of bats in an affected hibernaculum (the area where bats gather to hibernate for the winter). In some cases, the mortality rate has been 100 percent, wiping out entire colonies. Some caves that once hosted hundreds of thousands of bats are now virtually empty.


Meanwhile, the funding to address the problem looks woefully inadequate.

For such a massive event, don't you think this ecological crisis seems underexposed? Not to take anything away from bees and CCD, but I guess bees are just sexier...

Sad days unfolding, IMHO.

edit on 21-7-2014 by loam because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 06:02 PM
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a reply to: loam

Terrific post loam. Bat's are also pollinators, so this is horrific news.

I've always loved bats and my family used to go out every evening to watch the bats at sunset during the summer. Bats are amazing. My daughter loved Stella Luna.....

We've lost so much and are losing more everyday.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 06:05 PM
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Right now, the bats in this area are under a different threat: rabies. There have been at least four confirmed cases with two coming after having bitten people.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 06:22 PM
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Wow this is crazy! SOME people may not be huge fans of bats... but how much more are they going to love an insect infestation of biblical proportions?!



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 06:47 PM
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Fantastic post! This is being posted from my phone, so I apologize for any errant spelling errors!

I can tell you, both my wife and I have noticed a huge drop in bat population around our home in Metro Detroit. The bat boxes in the park by us are for the most part empty, while our mosquito problem has been out of control.

It didn't seem so bad in the Northern Lower Peninsula (Burt Lake, Harrisville), but it was more awful than normal in the Upper Peninsula (Newberry, Paradise, Manistique). Still didn't see very many bats flying around. I guess the colder and longer than normal winter also caused a lot of the bats to die off.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 07:02 PM
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a reply to: loam

It's a depopulation conspiracy developed to prevent Ebola from coming to North America.

...Not to be disrespectful. Bats are important pollinators, eat mosquitoes and more. F&S&



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 07:14 PM
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I see the sad necessity of applying a price tag to the demise of our bats, but we should be more concerned about the loss of numerous bat species, something that is irreplaceable and has no price.

Bats, just part of the bottom line I guess.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 07:38 PM
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a reply to: loam

Yep. We have a cave system about 30 min from my house and many of the caves that were open before are now only open a few months out of the year to try to keep people from spreading it to the cave. I believe there is an endangered species that lives there (maybe Indiana bat, that's just off my head though).

Also a few years ago two guys went into the bat cave and knocked like 70 bats down off the walls and killed them while they were hibernating. They were thrown in jail, but man it was infuriating.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 08:11 PM
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This isn't an ELE. There's plenty of species that die out each year. Our footprint has caused this to rise through the last many centuries, but this isn't an indication of a rapid rate in biolife declining from this fungus. It's just one species directly effected. The indirect effects are likely more complex than we can gather right now, but I don't think it's close to a real ELE.

You could say, perhaps, that we're in the beginning of the 6th mass extinction, and this white nose fungus is part of it. I'm more concerned about the 40% decline of phytoplankton over the second half of the 20th century. That's the base of the marine food chain and the source of over half of oxygen on the planet.

Regardless, S + F. This is massive enough for a lot more attention, and as you say, it's actually dying out (pun intended) as we "progress" through time.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 09:45 PM
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It's amazing how little attention is paid to this event. I live in the north woods of WI and I can say that I've noticed there are no bats anymore. I grew up watching the bats every night in these parts and I've pointed it out to many people over this summer how they are missing, and of course, people are dumbfounded and had no idea. Also, as a result, the mosquitoes have been unbearable. You can't even go outside if you live in the woods without being devoured. I live within city limits and the early part of this summer (when they hatched) was incredible how much the mosquitoes increased. It doesn't help that we've had a record snowfall this past winter and now we've been drenched this summer with one rain fall after another giving them plenty of breeding grounds. Without the bats, the mosquito probably will only worsen each summer...and along with it, diseases that mosquitoes carry will increase. It's a major problem and sadly, it's being ignored.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 10:01 PM
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off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


 



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 10:04 PM
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a reply to: pl3bscheese

I think he was using the term lightly. It is an ELE for this species. If there was a similar infection spreading like this in humans it would be considered an ELE.

It's very concerning. I like bats and hope they can come up with something for this. I need them.. to eat mosquitoes.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 10:05 PM
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a reply to: ShadowChatter

Is that incredible dead pan sarcasm or are you being serious?

That's how flat that joke(?) came out.



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 10:18 PM
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a reply to: pl3bscheese

Quite right. It isn't an ELE, which is generally accepted to have a very specific meaning. In my exuberance to convey one thought, I absent mindedly used a term-of-art that shoots well beyond what I was trying to express.

Of course, this specific event is one hell of a shot across the bow...

Thanks for the correction. It should not have been overlooked.


edit on 21-7-2014 by loam because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 10:42 PM
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originally posted by: GogoVicMorrow
a reply to: ShadowChatter
Is that incredible dead pan sarcasm or are you being serious?
That's how flat that joke(?) came out.




i suppose it might have been a little over the top scrcastic,,My Bad...I keep forgetting that whites have no right to be offended



posted on Jul, 21 2014 @ 11:33 PM
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originally posted by: pl3bscheese
This isn't an ELE. There's plenty of species that die out each year. Our footprint has caused this to rise through the last many centuries, but this isn't an indication of a rapid rate in biolife declining from this fungus. It's just one species directly effected. The indirect effects are likely more complex than we can gather right now, but I don't think it's close to a real ELE.

You could say, perhaps, that we're in the beginning of the 6th mass extinction, and this white nose fungus is part of it. I'm more concerned about the 40% decline of phytoplankton over the second half of the 20th century. That's the base of the marine food chain and the source of over half of oxygen on the planet.

Regardless, S + F. This is massive enough for a lot more attention, and as you say, it's actually dying out (pun intended) as we "progress" through time.


Actually, this isn't affecting just one "species". It's affecting multiple species of the Chiroptera order. 7 bat species are currently succumbing to the fungus and are:

Big brown bat
Eastern small-footed bat
Gray bat
Indiana bat
Little brown bat
Northern Long-eared bat
Tricolored bat

P. destructans, the fungus at work in WNS, as been detected in 4 additional species of bats in N. America but without obvious effect. So, this isn't one species being directly affected--it's 7 total that are dying out and some of these species were once the most common bats in the America. These guys frequently eat their weight in insects in a single night so that's bound to have an ecological effect. I agree though, our oceans also are fairing very poorly and that is very worrisome.



posted on Jul, 22 2014 @ 02:45 AM
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a reply to: WhiteAlice

Thanks for that information, I stand corrected.

I don't understand how anyone can look at our collective actions post industrial revolution and think we have another 150 years left on this planet. The last 150, heck the last generation, has caused so much damage.



posted on Jul, 22 2014 @ 10:45 AM
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a reply to: ShadowChatter

I'm white? I just really didn't get it, and I am pretty well attuned to wit and sarcasm.
edit on 22-7-2014 by GogoVicMorrow because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 22 2014 @ 10:47 AM
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a reply to: loam

great thread, Loam !
I am a little brown bat enthusiast !
I live in SW ohio and my old barn is host to hundreds of the little critters.
Just last night I noticed the babies are starting to come out, and they don't fly worth a hoot at first. lol. So I did my annual prevention things - put a piece of wood in the trough, turned the buckets upside down, etc. found one on the ground and put him back in the wall.
For years I have been following the WNS and also wondering why it does not get more attention. I mean, if there was something I could do in the winter to prevent the fungus I would be all over it.


Information here



Is there a cure?

No, but researchers are learning more about how the disease kills bats, which is an important step toward developing an effective treatment. Also, European bats appear to be immune to the fungus, and finding out why could provide vital clues to a cure for North American bats.

Is the federal government doing enough about this wildlife crisis?

No. The response to white-nose syndrome has been slow, and the resources for research and management have been scarce. While important scientific study is happening, much more is needed. Meanwhile, most federal land agencies in the western United States have still not implemented widespread emergency cave closures or decontamination requirements, and some are even back-tracking on earlier measures to reduce the risk of human transport of the deadly fungus.




Every winter I worry, but so far so good. I'm sure it's just a matter of time, but I cannot imagine my little farm with no bats. The insect population would explode for sure.


edit on 22-7-2014 by horseplay because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 22 2014 @ 01:14 PM
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Could it be that the bats don't have any dry warm places to roost, and that they are forced to hibernate in dark dank places instead? There were programs to batproof buildings like churches through the use of wire mesh netting around belfries, eaves of buildings and recessed windows.



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