Thursday, April 10, 2014

White Nosed Syndrome

Each spring for the past eight years has brought tragic news of the spread of White-nose Syndrome, and 2014 is no exception. Two more states – Wisconsin and Michigan – now face this devastating wildlife disease that has killed at least 5.7 millions bats in North America. With today’s announcement, WNS has now been confirmed among bats in 25 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. The cold-loving fungus that causes the disease, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is present in three additional states, although disease symptoms have not been confirmed.

Biologists conducting winter surveys in Wisconsin last month found the characteristic fungus on 2% of hibernating bats in a Grant County mine in the southwestern corner of the state. The state Department of Natural Resources reports that laboratory and genetic tests confirmed the bats were suffering from WNS. 

In Michigan, biologists confirmed the disease in three northern counties: Alpena, Dickinson, and Mackinac. Five little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) that showed obvious signs of the disease were tested by the National Wildlife Health Center and Michigan state labs and both confirmed the presence of the White-nose Syndrome. 

The WNS fungus was first discovered in New York cave in 2006 and now spans much of the continent, with fatality rates of more than 90 percent at some infected sites. Although the disease continues to spread, Bat Conservation International is working with some of the best scientists around the world to identify and develop tools to slow the frightening spread of the fungus and prevent the disease. Funding is desperately needed for these critical projects. You can help by donating to Bat Conservation International’s White-nose Syndrome Response Program.


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