• Bats & Butterflies,  Uncategorized

    Death in the Bat Caves:
    Disease Still Wiping out Hibernating Bats

    Scientists suggest a roadmap to tackle disease which has killed over one million bats

    California, February 2011 – Conservationists across the United States are racing to discover a solution to White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that is threatening to wipe out bat species across North America. A review published in Conservation Biology reveals that although WNS has already killed one million bats, there are critical knowledge gaps preventing researchers from combating the disease.

    WNS is a fatal disease that targets hibernating bats and is believed to be caused by a newly discovered cold-adapted fungus, Geomyces destructans, which infects and invades the living skin of hibernating bats. Since 2006 about one million bats across six species in eastern North America have died from WNS, and as a result several species of bats face endangerment or extinction.

    “White-Nose Syndrome was first documented in 2006 in a tourist cave near Albany, New York. Dead and dying bats were then found in four nearby caves, 30 km west of Albany,” said lead author Janet Foley from the University of California, Davis. “By July 2010 G.destructans was identified in hibernating bats in 13 states as well as in Ontario and Quebec across the Canadian Border.”

    Affected bat species include the endangered Indiana and gray bats (Myotis sodalis and M. grisescens), little brown bat (M. lucifugus) and the cave bat (M. velifer). Infection has also been confirmed in five species of bats in Europe, although no similar epidemic has yet been recorded.

    The low temperatures and humid conditions of bat caves create ideal breeding grounds for this fungus, and in some bat colonies the mortality rate from WNS has been more than 95%.

    “Some bats in infected bat colonies behave abnormally when infected, choosing to hibernate in exposed places, such as cave entrances or even flying during the day,” said Foley. “Bats regularly arouse from hibernation in order to drink, urinate and relocate. This causes them to burn up their only source of energy during winter, the body fats they stored prior to winter when insect prey was still available. Fungal infection might be leading to more frequent arousals from hibernation, causing infected bats to use up their fat reserves earlier, with potentially fatal consequences.”

    Although the effects of the disease are all too apparent, there are critical knowledge gaps for researchers confronted with combating the disease. It remains unclear if G. destructans is the only pathogen involved, how it causes mortality, and its means of transmission. Some evidence suggests that people can move the fungus from cave to cave.

    “Our study considers how epidemiology and disease ecology can help fill these knowledge gaps,” said Foley. “We believe that a roadmap including bat monitoring and disease surveillance, coupled with active research into finding ways to treat individual bats will be vital to combating this disease.”

    “Based on current data, we believe that the culling of bats would be both premature and ill-advised. Instead we see efforts to conserve the genetic diversity of bat populations, combined with a program of educating the public to be key parts of the roadmap.”

    Dr Foley’s team includes bat and disease ecologists from three different public agencies and academia and tries to make the point that creative, scientifically-sound ideas will be key to the success of any management plans. The group outlines an outbreak investigation framework that includes establishment of diagnostic standards, case definitions, and gathering of information on potential treatments for similar diseases.

    The importance of monitoring bat population health is also stressed, as is improving public education and awareness of the disease, especially as many species of bats live in caves popular among tourists. If current declines in bat populations continue, the researchers expect strong reductions in the ability of bats to reduce insect pests and play important ecological roles in unique cave ecosystems.

    The team also call for further studies of the chemical or biological agents that can kill the fungus, but have yet to be proven safe for bats.

    “In the three years since its discovery WNS has changed the focus of bat conservation in North America,” concluded Foley.. “A national response is required and our epidemiological roadmap is designed to help inform state and national efforts to combat WNS across North America.”

    This study is published in Conservation Biology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact [email protected]

  • Bats & Butterflies,  Uncategorized

    No Halloween Treat for Bats

    For Immediate Release, October 27, 2010

    National Plan for Bat-killing Disease
    Too Little, Too Late

    RICHMOND, Vt.—  Four years into a wildlife disease epidemic that has already killed more than a million bats in the eastern United States, the federal government today finally released a national response plan for white-nose syndrome. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan is still only in draft form and only provides a conceptual framework for responding to the disease. It lists no specific action items and makes no concrete recommendations for research and management of the fast-spreading malady that has hit nine bat species so far, including two on the endangered species list.

    “It’s frightening to watch the government’s slow-motion response to what biologists call one of the worst wildlife declines in American history,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “A year after it first released a draft version of its plan, we have yet another draft, and nothing that actually gives direction or provides resources to scientists in the lab or biologists in the field.”

    White-nose syndrome is associated with a newly identified fungal species that grows on bats’ noses and wings and causes them to die of starvation during the winter. From its epicenter near Albany, NY, the disease has spread rapidly, with the fungus now found on bats in 14 states, from New Hampshire to Oklahoma, as well as the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Bats play a vital role around the country in controlling moths, beetles and other insects.

    “What would Halloween be without bats? Scarier still, what would America be without them?” Matteson said. “If we’re going to stem the spread of this deadly disease, we need the government to move quickly with a well-coordinated, well-funded response.  In moving too slowly and failing to include concrete action, this plan keeps bats on the path to extinction, and we’ll all be poorer for it.”

    The national plan has been long awaited by wildlife agencies and conservation groups as a way to push response to the disease into higher gear. Already, some bat populations in eastern states have declined by as much as 80 to 100 percent, and scientists fear that as the disease spreads westward, it will eliminate entire species of the insect-eating mammals. Insect populations may take off as a result, biologists say.

    “The nightmare of this disease is only accelerating, but the federal government continues to waste time, as if it has decades to figure things out. The bats can’t tolerate more dramatic losses, and they can’t tolerate any more government foot-dragging,” said Matteson.

    As an alternative to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s conceptual draft plan, the Center for Biological Diversity is urging the federal government take the following actions over the coming several months:

    • Immediately declare white-nose syndrome a wildlife emergency
    • Dedicate at least $10 million for white-nose syndrome research in next year’s Interior budget
    • Develop a systematic plan for restricting access to all bat-occupied caves and mines on Bureau of Land Management lands and prohibit nonessential human access to all U.S. Forest Service caves in the Southwest by the end of the year
    • Finalize the national response plan for the disease by mid-January
    • Develop a National Park Service plan by mid-February to limit the disease’s spread
    • Prohibit nonessential human access to all Forest Service caves in the Intermountain, Northern, Pacific Southwest and Pacific Northwest regions by late February

    The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on the draft plan for the next 60 days. After that, it will review the public response and finalize the plan. Specific measures for addressing the bat disease will be contained in a subsequent implementation plan, but there is no deadline for completion of the implementation plan, according to Fish and Wildlife Service officials.

    The Center filed a petition earlier this year to close all federally owned bat caves in the lower 48 states to protect bats from the possible human-caused spread of the white-nose fungus. Since then, the Forest Service has declared all bat caves in its Rocky Mountain Region (Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and most of Wyoming and South Dakota) off-limits to recreational use; the Bureau of Land Management advised its state directors to take precautionary measures against the disease, including targeted cave closures; and the Fish and Wildlife Service administratively closed all bat caves and mines within the national wildlife refuge system. Last year, the Forest Service closed bat caves to recreational use in eastern and southern national forests.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to act on a Center petition, filed last January, to list two white-nose-affected bat species under the federal Endangered Species Act, despite clear evidence that bat numbers have declined dramatically in the East, where white-nose syndrome has been present the longest.

    To learn more about bats and white-nose syndrome — and to see an animated map of the disease’s spread — go to

  • Bat Houses,  Bats & Butterflies,  Bird Accessories,  Uncategorized

    Bat Houses Help Offset Pandemic

    A common and recent disease found only in brown bats threatens to wipe out entire species. In terms of ecology and the food chain in general, this is a serious concern for scientists. Insect populations may grow wildly without control from brown bats. Confused bats are being seen in broad daylight, during hibernation cycles when food sources are not available. Their cycles are interrupted and whole colonies are dying off at an alarming rate.

    Erecting bat houses may help some of the stray bats find adequate shelter in hopes of survival. The following video explains further about the bat’s disease known as White Nose Syndrome.

    The Battle for Bats: White Nose Syndrome from Ravenswood Media on Vimeo.