For the third year in a row, the U. S. Forest Service has
White-nose syndrome is an aggressive and deadly disease, killing nearly 7 million bats across 19 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces in just 6 years. Identified by white fungus growth on the wings and fur of affected bats, particularly around the muzzle, the disease causes erratic behaviors including premature rousing from hibernation, affinity for cold temperatures, day flight, and aimless activity leading to exhaustion. The fungus is also responsible for damage and scarring of the wing membranes, but uncharacteristic behaviors and associated starvation are typically the ultimate cause of death.
Nine hibernating bat species are currently affected by the disease, at least five of which have suffered devastating losses. With mortality rates exceeding 90 percent in some affected caves, experts expect the disease to continue its spread across the United States, inevitably driving some species to extinction.
What you can do to help:
While researchers agree that bat-to-bat transmission is the predominant infection factor, there is evidence to suggest that human exploration of caves may be responsible for the spread of fungus spores into previously uninfected colonies. It is currently believed that a single fungus, Geomyces destructans, is responsible for white-nose syndrome and carefully disinfecting clothing and equipment after cave exploration may help to prevent spore transmission to unaffected sites.
There is also evidence that some bats are adapting to the crisis by roosting alone, or in very small groups, rather than in large colonies. One way to encourage this protective behavior is to provide a bat house and fresh water on your property, or sponsor a community effort to build multiple roosting habitats which can be monitored for fungal infection. If erratic behavior, or white fungus growth on the wings, fur, or muzzle of roosting bats is observed, report your observations to your state conservation agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. Instructions for reporting white-nose syndrome related mortalities can be found on the
For more information on white-nose syndrome and its effect on bat populations, visit the
P.S. - for those of you that, unfathomably, dislike bats, it has been estimated that at least 2.4 million pounds of bugs would have been eaten by the bats that have died due to white-nose syndrome, and scientists have estimated that bats provide some $53 billion worth of pest-control services to the American agriculture industry. They may give you the huzz, what with you being certifiably crazy, but they're working hard to make your world a better place for you to live.