As the second state struck by white nose syndrome in bats, good news for Vermont’s bats is good news for all hibernating bats in North America. An Associated Press story reports that scientists are interpreting results of a winter-long study of bat movements in New England’s largest bat hibernation site as showing a sharp reduction in the number of bats felled by white nose syndrome.
The scientists tagged over 400 bats, and found that only eight left their hibernation cave early. Only 192 bats left the cave at their normal time, but the scientists say they think those other 200 or so bats hibernated in another cave, as opposed to dieing somewhere deep in the cave out of reach of their tracking antenna.
Read the whole Associated Press story here.
Scroll down for some background on the study and other interesting white nose syndrome info, here.
Photo: Little brown bat with white nose syndrome. Courtesy of Missouri Dept. of Conservation
After detecting the fungus that causes white nose syndrome, but not seeing any bats with the disease, for two winters in a row, dead bats showing the symptoms caused by the white nose syndrome fungus were found in an Arkansas cave on January 11, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) press release says.
A total of five dead bats were found during a survey of the Marion County cave. Two of the bats were collected and submitted to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center where it was confirmed that both bats had the fungus. Both bats had damage to wing, ear and tail membranes consistent with white-nose syndrome, the press release says.
This makes Arkansas the 23rd state to confirm white nose syndrome in bats.
Read the AGFC press release on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s white nose syndrome web page. (The release was not on the AGFC website when this item was posted.)
Press reports have merely reprinted the press release. See an example here.
See State Wildlife Research News‘ coverage of this past summer’s fungus discovery in Arkansas, here.
Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission, used courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service. This year’s findings are in red.
Sorry 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
The National Wildlife Health Center (in Madison, Wisc., part of the US Geological Survey) has updated the Bat Submission Guidelines for the 2013/2014 white nose syndrome (WNS) surveillance season.These are the protocols that you, a state wildlife biologist, would use to submit a bat or other sample to the center for WNS diagnosis.
The new protocol breaks the country into three regions (WNS prevalent, some WNS, no WNS yet) and has slightly different procedures for each region. One new aspect is the availability of swab kits, so that whole dead bats don’t always have to be sent to the center.
The notice for the new protocol also include the advice not to survey for WNS before mid-winter. The fungus is typically not recognizable before mid-winter and the extra disturbance harms the bats.
The supporting documents include a lot of PDFs:
The National Wildlife Health Center Bulletin announcing the new protocol. (PDF)The new protocol itself (PDF; 29 pages)
A non-PDF version of the new protocol announcement from whitenosesyndrome.org (which is a US Fish and Wildlife Service site)
And, if you are a state wildlife biologist, and you haven’t signed up for the National Wildlife Health Center’s Wildlife Health Bulletin, you should. It comes out as-needed, and that has never been more than once a month, usually much less. Here’s the link to back issues. Information for subscribing is in tiny print at the end of the bulletin.
Graphic: Map from WNS protocol; USGS
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:
Minnesota Public Radio
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:
DNA 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
Bats 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
Because 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
Thirty 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