On the verge of another season of winter hibernating bat surveys, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and partners estimate that at least 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have now died from white-nose syndrome. Biologists expect the disease to continue to spread.
syndrome (WNS) is decimating bat populations across eastern North
America, with mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent at many sites.
First documented in New York in 2006, the disease has spread quickly
into 16 states and four Canadian provinces. Bats with WNS exhibit
unusual behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside
during the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines
where they hibernate. Bats have been found sick and dying in
unprecedented numbers near these hibernacula.
startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that
white-nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem
facing our nation. Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as
natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while
playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread
disease to people,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.
“We are working closely with our partners to understand the spread of
this deadly disease and minimize its impacts to affected bat species.”
the total number of bat deaths has been a difficult challenge for
biologists. Although consistent population counts for federally listed
endangered bats, like the Indiana bat, have been a priority for state
and federal biologists, establishing population counts of once “common”
bat species, like little brown bats, was historically not the primary
focus of seasonal bat population counts.
syndrome has spread quickly through bat populations in eastern North
America, and has caused significant mortality in many colonies,” said
National WNS Coordinator, Dr. Jeremy Coleman, “Many bats were lost
before we were able to establish pre-white-nose syndrome population
than 140 partners, including tribal, state and federal biologists and
bat researchers convened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for the 2012
Northeast Bat Working Group (NEBWG) meeting last week to discuss
challenges facing bat research, management and conservation.
Coordinating with wildlife officials in Canada, the group discussed
population-level impacts to hibernating bats and developed the estimate
of bats lost to WNS.
addition to the lack of population data for many bat species, there has
also been a lack of consistency in how bat population data was reported
among agencies. As part of the May 2011 national WNS response plan,
which was developed by the Service in partnership with a team of
federal, state, tribal, and NGO scientists, agencies are addressing this
by establishing methods for consistent data collection.
National Plan for Assisting States, Federal Agencies and Tribes in
Managing White-Nose Syndrome in Bats provides a framework for the
coordination and management of the national WNS investigation response,
and the Service leads an extensive network of partners in implementing
Service serves as the primary resource for up-to-date information and
recommendations for all partners, such as important decontamination
protocols for cave researchers and visitors and a cave access advisory
that requests a voluntary moratorium on activities in caves in affected
states to minimize the potential spread of WNS.
addition to developing science-based protocols and guidance for land
management agencies and other partners to minimize the spread of WNS,
the Service has funded numerous research projects to support and assess
management recommendations and improve our basic understanding of the
dynamics of the disease.
mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to
conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a
leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for
our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources,
dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.
For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwswns, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfws_wns, and download white-nose syndrome and bat photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/collections/72157626455036388/.
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