White-Nose Syndrome in Bats
Why are America’s Bats Dying?
During the winter of 2006–2007, an affliction of unknown origin dubbed “white-nose syndrome” (WNS) began devastating colonies of hibernating bats in a small area around Albany, New York.
Since then, at least one million insect-eating bats from 10 surrounding states and adjacent areas of Canada have died. This syndrome, named for the white fungus often seen on the muzzles, ears, and wings of infected bats, poses a threat to cave hibernating bats of the United States and potentially all temperate regions of the world. The fungus, Geomyces destructans, invades the skin of bats, producing ulcers and often altering bats’ hibernation arousal patterns, making them leave their hibernation before they are ready and causing them to starve.
Interagency National Response Plan
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is coordinating the continuing WNS investigation and is working on a multi-faceted interagency national plan, expected to be complete in the near future. The first piece, the plan framework, is available at the following website:
BLM Interim Response Strategy
In an effort to stay ahead of this serious issue, the BLM has provided interim direction to Field Offices on how to prepare for the anticipated occurrence of WNS on BLM-administered lands nationwide.
Instruction Memorandum No. 2010-181 - White-Nose Syndrome
What You Can Do
Avoid possible spread of WNS by humans
• Public land agencies across the country are working together to help prevent the spread of the disease. Scientific evidence suggests that humans spread the disease from one cave to another with their boots, clothing and anything they bring into the cave. Some caves have been closed to human access, and still others may be closed to prevent the disease from spreading further.
o If a cave is closed in your area, do not enter it.
o It is very important to follow decontamination procedures if you are entering caves
Avoid disturbing bats
• Stay out of all hibernacula when bats are hibernating (winter).
• Report unusual bat behavior to your state natural resource agency. Unusual behavoir would include bats flying during the day when they should be hibernating (December through March) and bats roosting in sunlight on the outside of structures. More difficult to discern is unusual behavior when bats are not hibernating (April through September); however, bats roosting in the sunlight or flying in the middle of the day would be unusual. Bats unable to fly or struggling to get off the ground would also be unusual.
Take care of bats
• Minimize disturbance to natural bat habitats around your home (e.g., minimize outdoor lighting, minimize tree clearing, protect streams and wetlands).
• Construct homes for bats.
• If bats are in your home and you don't want them there, work with your local natural resource agency to exclude or remove them without hurting them after the end of the maternity season. The best time to exclude bats is when they aren’t in your home.
Learn about bats/teach about bats - bats are fascinating creatures and an important part of our environment.
• Visit informational websites such as the ones hosted by Bat Conservation International to learn more.
• Attend educational programs or events celebrating bats.
• Some states and organizations sponsor bat emergence counts or other activities. Contact your state natural resource agency or local conservation groups for opportunities.