White-nose syndrome, (Geomyces destructions), is a fungus that attacks the bats’ exposed skin and flight membranes, causing them to suffocate or starve. [Discover Magazine] Being an animal lover and one who has saved many trapped bats from my house, I was saddened when hearing about this awful fungus and wanted to know more. The fungus has been found to thrive in the cold hibernacula for bats in the winter. A study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology shows that it can survive in the ground for months, even years, after the bats have left the cave.
“We have found that caves and mines, which remain cool year-round, can serve as reservoirs for the fungus, so bats entering previously infected sites may contract White-nose Syndrome from that environment. This represents an important and adverse transmission route.”
–Jeff Lorch (Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The bats start exhibiting strange behavior when infected with the fungus; such as flying outside in the day and clustering close to the entrance of their hibernacula, where they would not normally cluster due to the light. The fungus then can travel to all the exposed skin, (such as the wings and nose), causing them to possibly suffocate and starve from the fungus encroaching on their face and blocking their orifices. When the bats were kept in a warmer environment, they seemed to fight off the fungus easier and more survived. [whitenosesyndrome.org, blog.discovermagazine.com] WNS, (White-nose Syndrome), has killed over 5.7 million bats in Eastern North America. In some caves and mines affected by the fungus there was a mortality rate of 90-100%. The bat species affected by this fungus are as followed: Big Brown Bat, Eastern small-footed bat, Gray bat, Indiana Bat, Little brown bat, Tricolored bat, Cave bat, Southeastern Bat, and the Virginia Big-Earred Bat. [whitenosesyndrome.org] First discovered in New
Cited: University of Wisconsin-Madison “Bad news for bats: Deadly fungus persists in caves.” (December 18, 2012). ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2013 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121218094216. Cernansky, Rachel. “Space Heaters in Caves Could Protect Bats from Mysterious Disease” (March 5, 2009). Discover Magazine, Retrieved September 18, 2013 , from http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2009/03/05/space-heaters-in-caves-could-protect-bats-from-mysterious-disease/#.UnFK83BJOfV. White Nose Syndrome (September 17, 2013). Retrieved September 18, 2013 from http://whitenosesyndrome.org.