White Nose Fungus in Minnesota

In a Friday afternoon press conference, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that it found the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats in a cave at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park and at the mine at Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

No bats with white nose syndrome symptoms have yet been found, but the finding is devastating for several reasons. First, Minnesota’s winters are long enough and cold enough to expect that white nose syndrome symptoms will appear and kill bats. Second, according to the Duluth News-Tribune the two sites are the state’s largest wintering locations for bats. Third, Minnesota represents a significant leap from the areas where the fungus has already been found, and the finding may be a sign that that the fungus has spread to the Midwest.

These article appeared before the press conference:
Duluth News-Tribune
Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

White Nose Syndrome Fungus in Arkansas

No bats have died yet, but the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has issued a press release noting the presence of the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats in two Arkansas caves.

Low levels of the fungus were detected from swab samples taken from hibernating bats in February 2012 and January 2013 at cave at Devil’s Den State Park in Washington County and a private cave located in southern Baxter County. Both are in northern Arkansas.

Arkansas had closed Devil’s Den Cave and Ice Box Cave at Devil’s Den State Park, and War Eagle Cave at Withrow Springs State Park to the public in 2010 to protect the bats there from white nose syndrome carried in from other infected locations by visitors.

Once the cold-loving nature of the white nose fungus became known, wildlife managers have hoped that the shorter, warmer winters in the south would protect the bats there from the syndrome. This Arkansas finding doesn’t change the assumption that shorter, warmer winters curtail the fungus’ effects. After all, no bats have died in these caves, and there has been no mention even of symptoms.

Read the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission press release here.
Most of these news reports are straight from the press release:
THV 11

New Name for White Nose Fungus

WhiteNoseBat_scientist08DNA analysis has revealed the the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats is not closely related to the other Geomyces species found in caves. The researchers, who are with the US Forest Service, say that the fungus should be in the genus Pseudogymnoascus instead.

The research will be published in the journal Fungal Biology. The authors note that the difference between the white nose fungus and native fungal species supports the idea that the fungus is not native to North America.

“This research represents more than just a name change,” said Bat Conservation International  director of conservation Mylea Bayless in a US Forest Service press release. “Understanding the evolutionary relationships between this fungus and its cousins in Europe and North America should help us narrow our search for solutions to WNS.”

Read the Fungal Biology paper abstract here. (Fee or subscription required for the full article.)
Read the US Forest Service press release here.
Read the Bat Conservation International newsletter article here.

Photo: courtesy USGS National Wildlife Health Center

Bat Movement Study

cumberland gap wns batBats move around a lot. Some bats migrate. Some bats move from summer or maternity roosts to winter hibernation caves. Finding out how bats move has suddenly become extremely important. White nose syndrome seems to be following the known patterns of bat movement. But just so little is known.

Erin Fraser used stable isotopes to study the migration patterns of tri-colored bats (aka eastern pipistrelles) for her doctoral work at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. Bat Conservation International helped fund the work, so they have lots of details in their newsletter, here.

You can learn more about using stable isotopes in ecological research in this article in the online publication Yale Environment 360, here.

Photo: A tri-colored bat found at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
shows visible signs of white-nose syndrome. Courtesy National Park Service

19 New Protected Species in Nova Scotia

plymouth gentianNineteen new species have been added to Nova Scotia’s list of species at risk, bringing the total listed in the province to 60, according to a Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources press release and a CBC News report.

Three bat species are on the list, including the little brown bat, the northern bat and the tri-colored bat, which are all listed as endangered. Three bird species have been added to the list as endangered: the barn swallow, Bicknell’s thrush, Canada warbler, and the rusty blackbird. The olive-sided flycatcher and the eastern whip-or-will have been listed as threatened.

The black ash tree is listed as threatened. There are only 12 known mature trees in the province, the department press release says.

For the complete list of species, see the Nova Scotia DNR website, here. (New species are marked with the year 2013.)

Read the Nova Scotia DNR press release here.
Read the CBC News story here.
The web page with the complete list of at risk species is here.

Photo: The Plymouth gentian has been listed as endangered in Nova Scotia. Courtesy of the Nova Scotia DNR.

Counting Bats

P1040280Because of white nose syndrome (WNS), counting bats is more important than ever. In regions where WNS has already struck, wildlife researchers are tracking survival rates. In regions where it hasn’t struck, wildlife researchers are collecting baseline data.

In Georgia, volunteers are using Anabat bat detectors to assist the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section in their counts. Read the story in the Augusta Chronicle.

In Long Cave in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park they are using LIDAR, a combination of light and radar, to count bats without disturbing them. This technology seems like a dream come true for bat biologists in the age of WNS. Bat Conservation International partnered with the Cave Research Foundation and the U.S. National Park Service to test the new technology.

Learn more about the technology and the test in the Bat Conservation International newsletter, here.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife is conducting its third year of summer bat surveys. The surveys are mostly done the old-fashioned way, by squinting into the dusk and counting, but the surveyors also have use of an Anabat and night vision goggles. In certain locations they trap and sometimes radio tag bats.

I know all about it, because I wrote an article, but I can’t link to it because it is behind a paywall. If you happen to have a subscription to the Rutland Herald, you can read it here. (Although I suspect that link isn’t good for long either.)

Photo: Vermont Fish and Wildlife bat biologist and interns prepare to count bats. By Madeline Bodin

Bat Training

BCI workshopBat Conservation International (BCI) still has space available this June in its Arizona field training workshops for biologists, land managers, consultants, students, and serious advocates of natural resource conservation who need to develop skills to monitor and inventory bats.

An acoustic monitoring workshop will be held June 4-9 and will cost $1,795, which includes dormitory-style lodging and food, but not airfare or other costs of transportation to the training site. A bat conservation and monitoring workshop will be held June 10-15 and will cost $1,595. If you want to handle bats during the workshop, you will need a pre-exposure rabies vaccine.

The deadline for applying to one of the June workshops is May 1, 2013.

More information about the two workshops can be found on the BCI website, here.

NY, Vt. WNS Bats Winter in Maine

bat bunker wnsThirty bats from New York and Vermont, some of which were visibly infected with white nose syndrome (WNS), were moved to a specially-prepared military bunker in Maine to spend the winter. Nine bats survived, a higher percentage than would have been expected if they had been left in the wild. Those bats were returned to the locations where they were found.

“We learned a lot from this experiment,” said Vermont Fish & Wildlife bat project leader Scott Darling in a department press release. “These bats were visibly infected before being placed in the bunker, so we wouldn’t have expected many of them to survive in their natural cave environment.”

Read the Vermont Fish and Wildlife press release here.
Read the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast’s blog here — with many wonderful photos. (Scroll down a bit to get to the main story about the bunker and WNS.)
Read a guest post on the USFWS white nose syndrome blog from the assistant manager at the National Wildlife Refuge where the bats wintered here. (With the same photos, and a link to a Flicker page.)Read an article from the Rutland (Vermont) Herald here. (But be warned that its articles go behind a paywall in a week, sometimes sooner.)

And in related news, here’s a report from the Barre/Montpelier Times-Argus and Rutland Herald, about further WNS research in Vermont this winter. (It may also disappear behind a paywall.)

Photo: The bunker door at the Aroostok National Wildlife Refuge in late March. by Steve Agius, courtesy USFWS

WNS: Gray Bat Trouble, and Canada Gets Organized

gray bats WNSAn Alabama cave that contains contains the largest documented wintering colony of federally listed endangered gray bats — about a million of them — has been struck by white nose syndrome (WNS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service reported yesterday. The good news is that WNS is not known to cause death in gray bats.

The infected bats found in the cave were tri-colored bats (aka eastern pipestrelles).

“With over a million hibernating gray bats, Fern Cave is undoubtedly the single most significant hibernaculum for the species,” said Paul McKenzie, Endangered Species Coordinator for the Service in the press release. “Although mass mortality of gray bats has not yet been confirmed from any WNS infected caves in which the species hibernates, the documentation of the disease from Fern Cave is extremely alarming and could be catastrophic. The discovery of WNS on a national wildlife refuge only highlights the continued need for coordination and collaboration with partners in addressing this devastating disease.”

Read the entire release, which has lots of details about the cave and how the infection was found, here.

In Canada, Environment Canada has committed to an additional $330,000 over four years for national coordination, surveillance and response to WNS. The US has had a national WNS coordinator (Jeremy Coleman, USFWS) for five years. The Canadian funds will go to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.

“Canadian biologists and managers have done an incredible job responding to the threat of this disease with the resources they have,” said Katie Gillies, Imperiled Species Coordinator at Bat Conservation International in a letter to that organization’s members. “But hiring a formal WNS coordinator will certainly streamline those efforts and maximize their impact on this tragic disease. This is a very important step.


Read the Environment Canada press release here and here.

Photo: Gray bats, courtesy USFWS

White Nose Syndrome in Georgia

cumberland gap wns batAccording to a Georgia Department of Natural Resources press release:

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that bats with white-nose syndrome were found recently at two caves in Dade County.


A National Park Service biologist and volunteers discovered about 15 tri-colored bats with visible white-nose symptoms in a Lookout Mountain Cave at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in late February. On March 5, a group led by a Georgia DNR biologist also found tri-colored bats with visible symptoms in Sittons Cave at Cloudland Canyon State Park.

This news follows quickly on the announcement just yesterday that white nose syndrome had been found in South Carolina. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources release says, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s WNS map confirms, that Dade County, Georgia is contiguous with counties in Alabama and Tennessee that confirmed WNS last year.

I’ll sometimes say that “it’s white nose season,” but what that means may not be clear if you haven’t been following WNS closely. This is a cold-loving fungus that requires low temperatures to become symptomatic in bats. WNS is typically detected at the end of winter, particularly in southern locations or in places where the infection is in its early stages. Add in time for a laboratory to analyze the bat to confirm WNS, and you are usually looking at a window of March through June for announcements of new WNS sites.

Read the Georgia DNR release here.
Find the USFWS map here. (Look carefully at the northwest corner of Georgia.)
If you want traditional media, there is a short piece in USA Today, here.

Photo: An eastern pipistrelle bat — aka tri-colored bat — found at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia) shows visible signs of white-nose syndrome. Courtesy of the National Park Service