White Nose Syndrome Inches West

wns in western MOSorry for the double dose of white nose syndrome (WNS) news, but I didn’t want this to get lost in yesterday’s post on the the new WNS protocol, even though it was included in the same Wildlife Health Bulletin. Here’s the announcement:

In December, WNS was confirmed in a tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) from Jackson County, Missouri, which borders Kansas. This detection represents the western-most location of WNS in North America and is also the first detection of WNS during winter 2013/2014. The nearest confirmed cases of WNS from the previous winter are located in east-central Missouri.

I couldn’t find anything on this case in a newspaper or a general interest publication.
Again, the Wildlife Health Bulletin (PDF)

Map: This year’s first WNS report in red. Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission, used courtesy USFWS

Pond Study Points to Chytrid Reservoir

pond research chytridAbout a third of the ponds in a Missouri study harbored chytrid fungus. A Washington University in St. Louis scientist decided to take advantage of the fact that the fungus does not seem to cause amphibian deaths in the region, and tried to tease out the factors that lead to the fungus flourishing in one pond and not another.

The 29 ponds studied were all roughly the same size and depth. They were clustered in the east-central section of Missouri (no surprise, around St. Louis).

No single factor determined which ponds had the fungus and which did not. But some fancy statistical analysis showed that the affected ponds shared amphibian community structure, macroinvertebrate community structure, and pond physicochemistry.

Since the research was done, crayfish and nematodes have been found to be infected with the chytrid fungus, making them possible reservoirs for the disease. This study suggested that variations in invertebrate communities was a factor in which ponds harbored the fungus.

In the paper, which was published in PLoS ONE, the researchers recommend that more research be done on the non-amphibian life in infected ponds to figure out how they are contributing to sustaining the fungus.

Read the Washington University in St. Louis article here.
Read the PLoS ONE paper here.

Photo: A pond survey crew samples the creatures that live in a Missouri pond in order to better understand the differences between ecosystems that favor chytrid and those that do not. Alex Strauss, the first author on this paper, is wearing a blue shirt.  Photo credit: Elizabeth Biro/Washington University – Tyson Research Center

Western-most White Nose Syndrome?

WNS in MOI almost skipped the news that another white nose syndrome (WNS) site has been confirmed in Missouri, because WNS was confirmed in the state last year (covered here), and the new site didn’t seem to represent a significant change.

Leave it to ProMED, however, to point out that the new site, in Onondaga Cave at Onondaga Cave State Park in Crawford County, is the western-most confirmed site of white nose syndrome in bats. So it is significant after all.

ProMED got the news from OzarksFirst.com, here.
I read the press release from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and you can too.

However, the fungus that causes white nose syndrome has been found farther west, in Oklahoma, although it did not cause white nose syndrome in bats there. That might be because of the warmer, shorter winters in Oklahoma or it might be because it was associated with a different species of bat. You can read the Bat Conservation International press release for more info on the situation in Oklahoma. (It’s a PDF.)

Photo: Little brown bat with visible fungus collected at Onondaga Cave. Photo credit: MDC/Shelly Colatskie

New EHD Outbreaks and Other EHD News

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been reported in Missouri and Wisconsin.

Find more information about the situation in Missouri through the Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here. In Wisconsin, the cause of death of 31 deer has not been confirmed, but EHD is suspected. If it is EHD, it will be the first outbreak since 2002 says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Read the blog in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, here.

In South Dakota, the EHD outbreak has been severe enough to curtail deer hunting licenses, according to the Mitchell Daily Republic. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is removing all the unsold hunting licenses from several of the state’s hunting units and is offering refunds to hunters who would like to voluntarily turn in their licenses. Read the whole story in the Mitchell Daily Republic.

Map: Antlered deer harvest in South Dakota in 2010. Darker color is higher number of antlered deer per 100 square miles. Courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

Turtles, Cougars, and Frogs in the Southwest

The current issue of Southwestern Naturalist has several articles that may be of interest to biologists outside of the region.

Yellow mud turtles decline in the Midwest. The largest populations of yellow mud turtles in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri have experienced severe declines. Withdrawal of water from aquifers is the main cause, but the growth of woody plants also plays a role. Read the article, here. (Requires fee or subscription for full article.)
More info on yellow mud turtles from Texas Parks and Wildlife, here.

Cougar habitat in Texas and northern Mexico. Researchers from Sul Ross State University tested a model of current and potential cougar (Puma concolor) in Texas and northern Mexico and found that it worked. Read the article here. (Same for fees or subscription.)

Fungus strikes desert frogs. Chytrid fungus was found in desert oasis frog populations in Baja California Sur. The oases with higher infection rates also had bullfrogs and non-native crayfish. Read the article here.

Also interesting: Western red bats (Lasiurus blossevillii) and Arizona myotis (Myotis occultus) were found on the lower Arizona River after the area was restored. The Arizona myotis had been extirpated from the area, and the western red bat had not be found there previously. Read the article here.

Cervid Disease Update

Add New Jersey and South Dakota to the list of states reporting an epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreak in white-tailed deer this year. Find more info here:

New Jersey
South Dakota

Bluetongue has been reported in Missouri by CBS News. Bluetongue is another virus closely related to EHD, and is also spread by midges, a biting insect. However, some say that only cattle get bluetongue. Others say deer do too, but very rarely.

In Nebraska, the state veterinarian is saying that cattle in the state are getting EHD, which again is considered to be a rare occurrence. He is seeking more information from cattle owners whose animals are experiencing EHD symptoms (which are virtually identical to bluetongue symptoms, which is common in cattle). Read the press release here.

In Washington, hunters have been finding limping elk with deformed hooves since the 1990s. Now the disease is spreading, and Oregon Public Broadcasting has the story.

Finally, in Texas, officials had set up a containment zone when chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in deer on the border with New Mexico. However, the latest news from the San Angelo Standard-Times says that the new rules will be delayed until the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on November 7-8. According to the Austin Statesman, that’s after the archery season and a few days after the start of the standard deer season.

The Austin Statesman article has the most detail. Read it here.
The Standard-Times article is a re-print of the Texas Parks and Wildlife press release. Read the press release here.
An Outdoor Life blog also had a few words to say about the restrictions, putting them in national context. Read that here.


Dry in the Midwest

Things have been dry in the Midwest this year. So far the biggest impact seems to be fish kills in bodies of water that are drying out. However, according to an Associated Press article that ran in the Indiana Post-Tribune, the impact may not be felt for years:

Rusty Gonser, professor of ecology and biology at Indiana State University, said the drought’s impact could extend well into the future where fish and wildlife are concerned.


“There are short-term and long-term effects with a drought like this,” he said.


“You might not see the effect on the population for two to five years,” he said, noting that shifts in reproductive cycles occur at all levels of the ecosystem. “And in three years, it might be raining a lot and people won’t realize a drought caused the issues seen then.” (Read the whole article, here.)


In fact, just last year the Midwest saw high rainfalls and flooding, so it may be difficult to sort out the impacts on area wildlife in the years to come.

Another take on the drought comes from a columnist for the Aurora (IL) Beacon-News. Her take-away? It’s the survival of the fittest. (Read it, here.)

The drought also means a quieter Fourth of July. Fireworks have been banned in some locations, for fear of starting wildfires. (Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here.)

Meanwhile, the US Drought Monitor shows that, while the Midwest drought is still relatively new (and parts of the Midwest are merely suffering from an “abnormally dry” spell) long-term drought continues in the South and West.

Photo by Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Missouri Lions Are From All Over

A Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) press release says that DNA test results show that four of the 14 mountain lions seen in Missouri last year came from three Western states.

MDC was able to document 12 of the 14 sightings, and four of the documented sighting yielded enough hair or tissue samples to do DNA testing on. DNA tests tied two young male cougars, one from Ray County and the other from Texas County, to the Black Hills area of South Dakota. DNA showed that a Macon County mountain lion was from central Montana. A mountain lion spotted in Oregon County was related to mountain lions from Colorado.

What was going on with mountain lions in Missouri last year is anyone’s guess. Previously, the highest number of sightings in the state in a year was two. This year there have been two as well.

“Increased public awareness and the growing popularity of trail cameras might account for part of the increase in sightings,” says Missouri resource scientist Jeff Beringer in the press release, “but last year’s spike is hard to explain. What we now know for sure is that mountain lions are traveling a long way to get here.”

Photo: Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Prairie Chicken and Sage Grouse Reintroductions

Male greater prairie chickenGreater prairie chickens are booming again this spring in Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie, Missouri. The species had been extirpated from the area until five years ago when the Missouri Department of Conservation translocated some greater prairie chickens from Kansas.

State biologists studying the birds have learned a lot about their habitat needs and have been surprised by the interplay between the donor population back in Kansas and the newly-established Missouri population.

The restoration offers hope to other states and regions trying to restore the greater prairie chicken, which is an endangered species in Missouri, when there is limited habitat available.

Read more in the Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here.

In Alberta, Canada, a two-year project to relocate some 40 sage grouse from Montana appears to be successful, says an article in the Calgary Herald. Human development, including oil drilling, had nearly wiped the species out in the province. Last year, poor weather hurt the reproduction of the introduced birds, but this year biologists believe the birds are nesting.

Read more in the Calgary Herald.

The key word mentioned in both reintroduction stories: “hopeful.”

Photo: Male greater prairie chicken courtship display, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

White Nose Syndrome in Missouri

little brown bat with white nose syndrome on cave wallWhite nose syndrome has been confirmed in three bats from two caves in Lincoln County, in northeast Missouri. Both caves are public, but their exact location has not been disclosed to prevent human disturbance of the remaining bats in the cave, the The Missouri Department of Conservation press release says.

The fungus that causes white nose syndrome was found in two locations in Missouri during the winter of 2009-2010, but did not cause bat mortality. The three bats in this most recent report are confirmed to have the disease caused by the fungus.

Read more:
Missouri Department of Conservation press release

So far news reports have not added to the information in the press release.