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Whitenose syndrome continues its steady path across the US
It has been two months since I last wrote an update about whitenose syndrome and the news in that short time has not been good. First, the fungus that has been wiping out bat populations along the eastern US spread north into Quebec and Ontario. Then, it was found in the Great Smoky Mountains and other caves in Tennessee followed by the first reports from Missouri. Just yesterday, there was a report of the presence of the fungus that causes whitenose syndrome in the western part of Oklahoma which, if true, would take us clearly off the map that has been tracking the disease.
The news has also not been good for particular species of bats. Missouri is home to at least 12 species of bats, including two endangered species, the gray and Indiana bats. Indiana bats are fairing poorly against whitenose syndrome. And the gray bat, which was close to being recovered from the endangered species list, is now at great risk of extinction again since 95% of all gray bats hibernate in just a few caves in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama.
While the scientific and bat communities have accurately predicted the path that the disease would spread, this year’s accounts have far surpassed expectations for how far and fast the spread would go. States have been responding by closing their caves to the public, but since the fungus is also, and perhaps most likely, spread from bat to bat, restricting human traffic may do little to stop the spread. All that can really be done is for scientists to continue their research as quickly as possible in an effort to determine whether there is anything that can be done to prevent the devastating die-off of bats.
Government Funding to Study Deadly Bat Disease Is Good Step, But More Effort Needed to Stem White-nose Syndrome Spread Across Continent
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it is providing $1.6 million for several new studies of the disease known as white-nose syndrome that has decimated bat populations in the eastern United States over the past four years. While the funding is an important step, the federal government must do still more to address what has been called the worst wildlife decline in North American history.
"The government's response so far is vastly outsized by the magnitude of the white-nose syndrome crisis. We must dramatically scale up our efforts to stem the spread of this disease or risk widespread catastrophe for bat populations around the country," said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, a group advocating for protection of bats. “Although this disease has killed millions of bats, the Fish and Wildlife Service still lacks a national plan to address the disease, has not declared new protections for plummeting bat species, and continues to request inadequate funding to tackle this huge ecological threat.”
Biologists fear the bat disease — associated with a fungus previously unknown to science — will show up this winter in the upper Midwest, Alabama and other areas of the South, and parts of the western United States. Last winter, white-nose syndrome jumped across the Mississippi River into caves in Missouri and western Oklahoma. So far, nine bat species have been documented with the fungus, two of which were already listed as endangered before the onset of the disease.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s leadership on this issue has been lackluster at best,” said Matteson. “We need scientists to figure out why bats are dying, and we need people to stay out of bat caves. The Fish and Wildlife Service can make sure both of these things happen.”
Twist in bat disease mystery
There's a new twist in the mysterious case of a disease that's killing thousands of bats in New England.
Bats living in several old military bunkers in New Hampshire are not being affected by white nose syndrome. Scientists hope to monitor temperature and humidity levels to try and determine why the bats seem to be immune.
White nose syndrome has killed about 90 percent of all the bats in New England since it was discovered in 2006.
Bat Disease Spreads From Vermont To Western U.S.
Vermont conservationists are warning that a disease responsible for killing millions of bats in the eastern United States is moving west.
The Center for Biological Diversity in Richmond released a report Wednesday that says federal land managers in the western U.S. are not moving quickly enough to stem the spread of white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus.
Matteson says the disease has shown up as far west as Oklahoma, and will likely move farther west if no action is taken.
White Nose Syndrome Spreads to Bats in 2 More States: New discoveries in Indiana and North Carolina raise the number of states and Canadian provinces affected by the disease to 18.
With new discoveries of white nose syndrome, the mysterious bat disease, in Indiana and North Carolina, the scourge has now been documented in 16 states and two Canadian provinces, from New Hampshire to Oklahoma, according to the accounting of the Center for Biological Diversity.
At least 9 species diagnosed with white nose syndrome are endangered bats at risk of extinction from the disease. Already, that die-off has resulted in 700 fewer tons of insects consumed by the insectivorous bats, according to one study. That, in turn, could spur more farmers to use more toxic pesticides, since several bat species eat agricultural pests.
(Nov. 6, 2011) — The appropriately named fungus Geomyces destructans is the cause of deadly white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats, according to research published in the journal Nature.
The study by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners, conducted at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc., provides the first direct evidence that the fungus G. destructans causes WNS, a rapidly spreading disease in North American bats.