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
From a US Geological Survey press release:
Recording bats’ echolocation “calls” is the most efficient and least intrusive way of identifying different species of bats in a given area, providing insight into some populations that have been decimated by white-nose syndrome.This new research by scientists from Virginia Tech, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army is published in the Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment.
White-nose syndrome, an unprecedented disease of cave hibernating bats caused by a cold-loving fungus, has caused the deaths of more than six million bats. It has spread from central New York to at least 22 states and five Canadian provinces since 2006. In addition to the endangered Indiana bat, populations of the formerly abundant little brown bat and northern long-eared bat have experienced severe disease-related declines, particularly in the Northeast and central Appalachians.
“Acoustic sampling is a noninvasive sampling technique for bats, and its use often allows for the detection of a greater number of bat species in less time than traditional sampling methods such as netting,” said study co-author W. Mark Ford, a USGS scientist at the Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Virginia Tech. “Low population numbers make netting both time and cost prohibitive. Netting also has low capture rates for WNS affected species. Moreover, acoustic sampling minimizes the handling of bats, which lessens the chance of unintended cross-contamination and exposure to the white-nose fungus from one bat to another or from equipment and personnel to uninfected bats.”
Read the rest of the USGS press release here.
Read the paper (open access;PDF) here.
Photo: An acoustic bat detector in a roof-top car mount. Courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the bat survey coalition
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.
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:
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
According 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
A tri-colored bat, found dead in Table Rock State Park in the northwestern corner of South Carolina, has been confirmed to have white nose syndrome (WNS), the Charlotte Observer and S.C. Department of Natural Resources report.
The SC DNR press release says:
The bat was collected on Feb. 21, transported on ice, and submitted to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga. The Wildlife Disease Study confirmed the presence of Geomyces destructans fungus, which causes WNS.
It further says:
“We have been expecting WNS in South Carolina,” said Mary Bunch, wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) based in Clemson. “We have watched the roll call of states and counties and Canadian provinces grow each year since the first bat deaths were noted in New York in 2007.”
South Carolina is the 21st state to report a case of WNS. The roll cal includes five Canadian provinces. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s WNS map shows this newest WNS site as being located in the Appalachian Mountains, not far from many other Southern mountain sites in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.
Read the Charlotte Observer article here.
Read the SC DNR press release here.
Illustration: The USFWS March 11, 2013 WNS map, showing a new site in Pickens County, South Carolina confirmed. Map by Carl Butchkoski, PA Game Commission
White nose syndrome (WNS) in bats was detected in four Illinois counties in February, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s WNS map shows that the new sites in southern Illinois are near other sites in other states, while the site in the northern part of the state stands alone (although it is somewhat near last year’s unconfirmed Iowa site).
The article notes that Illinois is the 20th state to be struck by WNS.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources press release says that the bats found with WNS were little brown bats and northern long-eared bats.
Read the Chicago Sun-Times article here.
Read the Illinois DNR press release here.
See the updated WNS map from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here.
In addition: the suspected case of WNS on Prince Edward Island in Canada, which we reported on last month, has been confirmed to be WNS.
Read the article on the CBC website, here.
(‘Tis the season for WNS reports. It generally runs from March through June, so stay tuned.)
Map: Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission, used courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service