White Nose Syndrome Affecting Bats and the Environment
Posted: 11:05 PM Apr 30, 2009
Last Updated: 3:31 PM Apr 30, 2009
Reporter: Mallory Brooke
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
A deadly fungus continues to spread through bat populations across the northeast. White Nose Syndrome has been confirmed in two caves in Virginia and four caves in Pendleton County, West Virginia.
WNS first surfaced in caves near Albany, New York in 2006. Of the bats affected, 99 percent have died.
Experts say the Little Brown Bat populations have had the highest mortality rate, but Eastern Pipistrelles and Northern Long-Eared Bats have also been affected.
Rick Reynolds, Wildlife Diversity Biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says there is little known about WNS, so little that they can't even call it a disease.
"White Nose Syndrome is something kind of new to the United States and we've never seen it before here," says Reynolds. "It's something that we're not 100 percent certain whether the fungus is really the causative agent or just more of a secondary agent that is really causing death of these bats."
Experts say bats with WNS wake up more often during their winter hibernation, burning up their stored fat. They leave the caves too early and cannot find insects on which they feed. Eventually, many starve to death.
There are several theories as to how WNS is spread. One is simply from bat to bat. Another is that bats don't immediately die from WNS and may fly to another cave. The final theory comes back to humans, who may travel from cave to cave without properly disinfecting clothes and gear.