by Timothy Hoelzle
White-nose syndrome is a fungal pathogen that can lead to bat mortality and, if no intervention is taken, could lead to disastrous impacts to bat populations in the Northeast US. The effects of white-nose syndrome were first observed in upstate New York in 2006 and the disease has since spread to 16 states and four Canadian provinces. It causes erratic behavior in bats, including flying outside during the day and grouping near hibernating cave entrances. Mortality rates are generally high (>70%) with 100% mortality observed at some sites.
Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service released their findings that 5.7 to 6.7 million individual bats have died from white-nose syndrome. Bats provide a natural means of pest control, benefitting farmers and the general public. Earlier this month, the FWS met with more than 140 partners at the Northeast Bat Working Group meeting to discuss the challenges for the conservation and management of bat populations and present a framework for the coordination and management of white-nose syndrome. These mortality estimates illustrate the severity of the problem this disease poses for bats and natural resource managers, highlighting the importance for continued monitoring and intervention.