How Vaccine-Dropping Drones Could Save This Ferretpublished on Jul 07, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) has proposed a curious new way to use drones to save the endangered black-footed ferret of Montana. It involved dropping M&M-sized food pellets on prairie dogs.The ferret's nature prey, the prairie dog, has been decimated by the nonnative flea-borne sylvatic plague, according to the National Wildlife Refuge. But in 2010, scientists at the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) and the University of Wisconsin developed an oral vaccine to combat the disease. The question is how to deliver that vaccine to the prairie dogs.Tonie Rocke, a research epizootiologist at NWHC, wrote about the work: "Ultimately the bait will be formulated in a size and shape that facilitates distribution by plane or overland vehicle." With drones, the National Wildlife Refuge believes it's found a cost-effective, precise, and less invasive method of distribution.The plan still has to get through public hearings, and the drone still has to be built. Each vaccine is roughly the size of an M&M, and they have to be distributed "every 30 feet" says USFW biologist Randy Matchett. "If we don't spread them out uniformly, one big, fat prairie dog could eat them all." So far, ecologists have been distributing the vaccines themselves by hand.Matchett imagines a drone that could dispense three vaccines at a time, with GPS-triggered catapults launching vaccines every thirty feet. With a payload of 5,000 vaccines, a drone could cover 400 acres of beautiful Montana wilderness in an hour.Matchett "fully intends" to have a proof of concept of the prairie-dog-saving drone by August, regardless if the public shouts down the idea or not. There hasn't been much noise on that front, so vaccine shooting drones may well be the thing that beats back a 20-year plague.
How, and Why, to Hunt the Red-Spotted Newtpublished on May 30, 2016
By JAMES GORMANWarren Pond in southern Connecticut, bordered by shady oaks and maples, is a lovely place to fish for bass or sunfish. Or, if the mood strikes you, to hunt the Eastern red-spotted newt.Why one would want to hunt newts is a valid question. But for Evan Grant, who was stalking the banks of Warren Pond this month, scanning the water through polarized sunglasses, the answer is that many species of salamander in the United States, including the newts he was seeking, may be on the brink of a deadly fungal assault, much like one that has devastated some frog and toad populations worldwide.In 2013, scientists discovered that a fungus called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, commonly known as Bsal, was attacking salamanders in Europe. Researchers later determined that species in the United States were vulnerable to the infection. And earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service temporarily banned the import of 201 species of salamanders that pose a danger of carrying the fungus into the United States.The wildlife service has proposed a permanent ban, and just finished a public comment period on that proposal. The service will make a final decision in the coming months.
White-nose syndrome found in bats in Des Moines and Van Buren countiespublished on Apr 27, 2015
State and federal wildlife officials say a disease known as white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in bats in two Iowa Counties.Iowa Department of Natural Resources endangered species co-ordinator Kelly Poole says three bats collected in Des Moines County were confirmed to have white-nose syndrome (WNS).Two little brown bats and one northern long-eared bat observed near a cave entrance showed visible signs of white-nose syndrome during monitoring for the disease and were collected at that time, Poole says. The U.S.G.S. National Wildlife Health Center in Madison confirmed that the bats had white-nose syndrome .There were other indications that WNS was present in the area. The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome was also detected on additional samples collected from the cave, which as recently as last winter, February 2014, had no visual signs of white-nose syndrome, according to Poole.She says WNS was also confirmed in four little brown bats collected in Van Buren County this winter after a concerned citizen reported bats flying around outside. White-nose syndrome causes bats to come out of hibernation and use up needed fat reserves that allow them to survive through the winter. It has been found to be 95-percent fatal to bats.The fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans (P. d.) which causes the disease had previously been detected in caves at Maquoketa Caves State Park in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but it was not detected in the last two winters. Poole says they will now try to stop WNS from getting into any other areas of the state. At this point we will be shifting our focus to making sure that we minimize the potential for spread within the state and for it leaving the state, Poole says. She says they will continue their bio-security prevention measures and their outreach and education efforts.WNS is spread mainly by bats, but can be spread by humans, and education efforts include ways to prevent carrying it from one area to another. Jeremy Coleman is the national white-nose syndrome coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and says the fungus is not a concern for humans.There is no known direct impact on human health from the disease, Coleman says. This is a fungus that affects bats when they are in hibernation and their bodies are close to the ambient temperature of the caves. It is a cold-loving fungus. He says the warmth of the human body makes it highly unlikely the fungus would grow. It is estimated that 5.7 million bats have died from WNS since 2006.Coleman says there is a great concern about how those loses will impact the ecosystem. Bats are the primary predator of night-flying insects in many of the forests and agricultural areas where they exist, and they are known to eat crop pests and other pest species. And their loss is estimated to be at a minimum of $3.7 billion to agriculture, Coleman says.Iowa is the 26th state where the disease has been detected. Volunteers are needed in Boone, Clayton, Dubuque, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Lucas, Marshall, Story, and Warren counties for summer volunteer programs to monitor bats.
Conservation of Pennsylvania's bats is now 'survivor management'published on Jul 09, 2013
Hoping to save some of the state's remaining bat populations, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has moved into "survivor management," biologist Cal Butchkoski recently told the board of game commissioners.Colony-hibernating bats, like the little brown bat and the big brown bat, that previously were the most common, numerous and widespread bats in the state, have been decimated by white-nose syndrome, an emergent disease that has wiped out millions of bats in 22 states and five Canadian provinces since it was discovered in New York in winter 2006-07. The disease is named for the white fungus, Geomyces destructans, that infects the skin of the infected bat's muzzle, ears and wings."This is one of the most devastating diseases affecting wildlife in eastern North America," said Wendi Weber, co-chair of the White-Nose Syndrome Executive Committee and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service northeast regional director. "Best estimates indicate that it has killed more than 5.7 million bats."At one of Pennsylvania's largest hibernating bat colonies, Hartman Mine in Canoe Creek State Park, near Hollidaysburg, the bat population fell from 35,000 last year, when WNS was first noted, to just 155 this year, according to Greg Turner, diversity biologist with the commission.Butchkoski commented,"We are seeing some survivors out there in small areas, but are they due to small populations maintaining themselves or are they just prime habitat drawing in what's left" of larger populations that have been reduced by WNS? Bat-capture and -banding work is under way to answer that question.He urged protection for hibernation sites and surrounding habitat to minimize additional stresses on the remaining bats, noting that small hibernating sites may be determined to be the last remaining refuges in some areas.Turner said Pennsylvania is home to about 4,000 abandoned mines and 35,000 natural caves."There's a need to legislation to protect these areas" from recreational caving, he said, noting that many organized spelunkers are already self-restricting their travels into some hibernacula."Bat numbers are not what they once were, but the few that remain make management even more essential if we're going down the road to recovery," he explained.Commission biologists and volunteers across the state are in the midst of a monitoring effort to collect bat maternity colony data this summer."WNS primarily kills during the winter, but the true impact of WNS on bat populations cannot be determined using estimates from winter hibernacula alone," said Nate Zalik, commission wildlife biologist."Pennsylvania's two most common bat species, the little brown bat and the big brown bat, use buildings as their summer roosts. Abandoned houses, barns, church steeples - and even currently-occupied structures - can provide a summer home to female bats and their young."Monitoring these 'maternity colonies' can give biologists a good idea of how bat populations in an area are doing from year to year. With the occurrence of WNS in Pennsylvania, monitoring these colonies is more important than ever."Participants in the study surveyed local bat colonies in late June and then again later this summer to gain a measure of how the colony grew through births this year.
U.S. bat epidemic spreads to 20th statepublished on Mar 01, 2013
White-nose syndrome has invaded Illinois, wildlife officials confirmed Thursday, making it the 20th U.S. state to be infested by the bizarre, bat-killing fungal infection. The epidemic has been sweeping west since its mysterious 2006 debut in New York, killing about 6 million bats along the way. It's now confirmed in 20 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces, with a mortality rate as high as 100 percent in some bat colonies. It's known to infect seven types of hibernating bats, including two that are endangered, and biologists say it may eventually threaten at least half of all North American bat species. "We are saddened by the discovery of WNS in Illinois," says Jeremy Coleman, national WNS coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a statement released Thursday. "We will continue to work with our partners to address this devastating disease and work toward conservation of bat species in North America." The illness had already been discovered west of Illinois last year, both in Iowa and Missouri, so it was likely just a matter of time until it filled in the gap. And since the new cases were found in four different counties scattered across north-central, southwestern and far southern Illinois, there's a good chance it's been hiding there for a while. "Although its arrival was anticipated, the documented spread of WNS into Illinois is discouraging news, mainly because there is no known way to prevent or stop this disease in its tracks," says Joe Kath of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. "Pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats in the United States likely save the U.S. agricultural industry several billion dollars a year, and yet insectivorous bats are among the most overlooked, economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America."
Erratic bat behavior at Great Smoky park may be linked to lethal syndromepublished on Jan 23, 2013
In the dead of winter, bats should be in a deep sleep. But at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, theyre out and about, flying erratically in many cases, acting crazy.Out of nowhere, theyve launched their mouse-sized bodies at unsuspecting visitors, forcing people to shoo them off with fishing poles, walking sticks and their bare hands. At least one bat flew smack into a trail walkers forehead.
White Nose Syndrome In Bats Could Yield Clues About AIDSpublished on Dec 18, 2012
The millions of bats succumbing to a deadly fungal infection across the country will leave massive ecological holes in their wake--prime predators of insects are disappearing, for one, and cave flora and fauna that depend on bats could be in danger of collapsing. But research on the animals immune responses could have one silver lining: helping AIDS patients.Biologists think white nose syndrome kills bats in a couple of ways--first, by covering their faces and wings in a powdery white fungus that makes them itchy, causing them to wake up from hibernation and burn their precious fat reserves. Second, it damages the animals sensitive wing membranes, which causes system-wide injury that is still not totally understood. That also hurts their ability to fly.Bat immune systems try to fight off the fungus, and apparently the system goes into overdrive when hibernating bats wake up. This is called immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, or IRIS. It has never been seen before in the wild, and has only been observed once--in AIDS patients.In people with AIDS, the immune system goes into overdrive after antiretroviral drugs suppress HIV infection and restore a person's health. The immune system then tries to fight off any other underlying infection. In bats, this happens after the animals wake from their winter torpor. During that stage, the immune system is suppressed, which allows the Geomyces destructans fungus to colonize the bats' skin in the first place. In both cases, the awakened immune system goes out of control and attacks healthy tissue as well as infected cells.Carol Meteyer, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, noticed the phenomenon while studying sick bats in Wisconsin. Its cellular suicide. The immune system comes out in a huge wave, going out to those areas of infection and kills everything," she told the Washington Post. Now she and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health aim to study the similarity between bat and human immune systems, potentially learning how IRIS works in people.The hypothesis about bat IRIS was published last month in the journal Virulence.
Bad News for Bats: Deadly Fungus Persists in Cavespublished on Dec 17, 2012
Researchers have found that the organism that causes deadly white-nose syndrome persists in caves long after it has killed the bats in those caves.A study just published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology shows that the fungus can survive in soil for months, even years, after the bats have departed.This is not good news for the bat population, says lead author Jeff Lorch, a research associate in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "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.""This certainly presents additional challenges," adds David Blehert, a microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, who also led the study. "It's important that we have completed this foundational work that further implicates the environment in the ecology of this infectious disease. We can now collectively move forward to address this problem."The fungus cannot grow at warm temperatures, so scientists have long wondered how it survived over the summer. The new study sheds light on this mystery, proving that the fungus can survive over the summer in the cool soil of the caves and mines where bats hibernate.The researchers analyzed soil samples collected during the summer (when bats were absent) from 14 caves and mines in which bats had been observed with white-nose syndrome, and they found viable samples of the fungus, called Geomyces destructans.White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in at least seven species since it was first detected in North America in 2006. From an epicenter in New York state, it has spread into New England, West Virginia, Missouri and Canada north of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The disease has not yet appeared in Wisconsin.Although the new study did not assess how effectively the soil-borne samples could cause disease in bats, they probably can, says Lorch. "Other studies, along with some of our current work, show that isolates we have found in North America are genetically identical, so there is no reason to think the fungus found in the soil would be less virulent. However, it would require additional experimentation to confirm that."The study reveals the challenges involved in repopulating caves after bats have been wiped out by white-nose syndrome, says Lorch. "A lot of people were wondering whether the bats would eventually recolonize caves they had disappeared from due to the disease. It now appears as though this may be a challenge for susceptible bats because the pathogen is living in the soil."The results also support current disease management recommendations to limit access to caves, Lorch adds. "Some of the states have put restrictions on entry into caves or require those entering to decontaminate gear and clothing to prevent transmission. We cultured the fungus from 200 milligrams of soil, and that amount could easily be transported in the tread of a boot. So even if a cave does not have bats, there is still a risk that people going in could spread the fungus."Based upon analysis of samples from 55 bat hibernation sites, the scientists also found that the fungus was present in caves and mines where the disease had been found, but not in disease-free sites. Therefore, this study supports other ongoing work indicating that G. destructans is probably not native to North America but rather was introduced from Europe.Still to be determined is why a few bats survive white-nose syndrome. "We have documented the recovery of some bats, and we might speculate that this has to do with the environmental conditions in which the bats chose to hibernate," says Blehert, who is also an honorary associate in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.When bats hibernate at near-freezing conditions, fungal growth is much slower than at temperatures just a few degrees warmer, and it could be that the survivors have the habit of hibernating in colder conditions.This might be good news for the bats, Blehert adds, because if inherited, this behavior could eventually protect some American bats from the fatal fungus.
Immune disease an added blow to fungus-ridden bat populationspublished on Nov 30, 2012
Some North American bats leave hibernation with little sign of the devastating effects of white-nose syndrome, a fungal epidemic that has claimed the lives of some 5 million bats since it first emerged in winter 2005. But even though those bats seem to have survived the fungal disease, their immune systems reactivate and can then inexplicably and devastatingly kick into overdrive, a new study reports.These animals appear to have what immunologists call immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, or IRIS. The discovery of the condition in bats is the first potential example of IRIS that has ever been seen outside a human patient, observes wildlife pathologist Carol Meteyer of the U.S. Geological Survey in Madison, Wis. Until now, most IRIS victims have been HIV patients treated with medicines to restore flagging immune systems. Together with Daniel Barber and Judith Mandl at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., Meteyer describes the bats IRIS-like disease in the Nov. 15 Virulence.Animals afflicted with white-nose syndrome acquire the infection during hibernation, when their bodies chill to near-freezing and their immune systems effectively go into suspended animation. Despite its name, the disease appears to kill its hosts by eroding large patches of tissue in the animals wings. Geomyces destructans, the infecting fungus (SN: 9/10/11, p. 22), then begins filling in those divots with its own cells, Meteyer says. Stricken bats become weak, dehydrated and eventually become unable to fly. IRIS seems to shows up in bats that have largely evaded this scenario. Instead, these animals emerge from hibernation with normal-looking wings. But as their body temperature warms back up and their immune systems reactivate, their health takes a nosedive. Within days, dark patches riddle their wings. The patches point to where immune cells known as neutrophils have begun unleashing an inflammatory assault against the fungus theyve been summoned to eradicate. Over the next two weeks, these and other immune cells encapsulate the fungal patches, walling them inside scablike structures. Soon the scabs fall away, leaving the wings with huge holes. Flight becomes limited, if not impossible.The first signs of this unusual condition emerged in May 2008, Meteyer recalls: I was being sent bats found in front yards. They could not fly. She quickly dismissed her initial suspicion, rabies, after examining the first animals wings. Under microscopy, I could see the wings were tattered with holes. Further probing would link inflammation to this damage.Animals exhibiting IRIS can be nursed back to health in the lab with food, drink and warmth, Meteyer has shown (SN Online: 10/26/11). But in the wild, its doubtful such animals stand a chance, she says. If the fungal disease doesnt kill them outright, IRIS will. They just face this double whammy. What her team describes in its new paper reflects what appears to happen in HIV patients, says Samuel Shelburne, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Although HIV depresses their immune systems, these patients can acquire other types of infections such as from bacteria that they initially dont fight. But then when drug therapy reconstitutes that immunity, these people can develop an overwhelming inflammatory response.Bats might therefore offer an animal system in which this situation develops, he says, so that researchers can probe why only some HIV patients develop the devastating IRIS backlash. In fact, Meteyer notes, her colleagues at NIH hope to test just that using colonies of hibernating Mexican free-tail bats. This species, unlike those naturally affected by white-nose syndrome, survives well in captivity and is not endangered.
Deadly white-nose syndrome attacks bats with no end in sightpublished on Jun 27, 2012
A plague killing bats nationwide shows no sign of slowing, say biologists whose winter cave surveys indicate the "white-nose syndrome" that decimates bat populations is still spreading. Starting from one cave in New York state in 2006, the fungal infection that preys on hibernating bats, has killed more than 5.5 million bats in 19 states. The bat deaths could cost farmers $3.7 billion in losses, biologists estimate, given the flying mammals eat insect crop pests, such as beetles, and pollinate plants.Until recently, most of the losses took place in Northeastern states and eastern Canadian provinces. But over the winter, the syndrome struck bats in Missouri, as far west as it has been documented, and in Alabama, as far south. Two weeks ago, wildlife officials announced that signs of the fungus had turned up in a cave in a new state: Iowa."Epidemics are hard to predict, but we would certainly expect it to spread farther," says Jonathan Sleeman of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center, speaking at a now-annual symposium on white-nose syndrome held this month in Madison, Wis. "We are definitely seeing the syndrome in new states, and new (bat) species."In May, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists announced the seventh kind of bat spotted with the fungus: gray bats, an endangered species found in Tennessee caves.Another endangered bat, the Indiana bat, has suffered large losses in previous years. There are 25 hibernating U.S. bat species, four of them endangered, and all likely susceptible to the syndrome.White-nose syndrome gets its name from the white fungus that grows on the face, wings and bodies of hibernating bats. Afflicted bats lose fat stores and behave oddly, flying outside caves during winter hibernation months in search of food, and clustering near cold cave and mine entrances.Over the past winter, wildlife experts reported from the symposium, more points about the syndrome have become clear:The fungus appears identical to one seen on bats in much smaller colonies found in Europe, and spreads bat-to-bat during hibernation.Some bats, banded in studies, survive several years after an infection, raising hopes that the syndrome isn't inevitably deadly.A few bat species, such as Virginia Big-Eared bats, appear not to decline in great numbers despite infections."We know the disease is quickly spreading," USGS biologist David Blehert says. "The question is how will the disease manifest itself in bats as it spreads to new areas."So far, cases in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri have not been attended by the huge die-offs of bat colonies (around 90%), for example, that have occurred in some cases in Northeastern caves. One area of research, Blehert says, is into whether different cave humidity levels, or simply fewer bat hibernation months, prevent the fungus from wreaking as much havoc on bats in more temperate states."We're seeing colonies in Northeastern states where the fungus is endemic (common), with much fewer bats now, similar to Europe," says Jeremy Coleman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "One question is whether they will stay at those low levels, or could we see a large population rebound?" His response to his own question: "Certainly not in our lifetime," because of low reproduction rates in bats.More likely, the fungus has wiped out some of North America's signature huge bat colonies forever, Blehert suggests. "I don't think we are going to see them develop some sort of immune system defense against the fungus." Instead, bats in small colonies, as in Europe, seem not to suffer its ravages. Their small numbers don't provide the fungus enough sustenance to ramp up its attacks as it does feeding off tens of thousands of bats in larger colonies, he says.Where will the spread of the syndrome end? Likely at the Pacific Ocean, Blehert says. "These are flying mammals that meet in the wild and return to different caves. They fly over rivers and they fly over mountains," he says.
Fungus strikes but doesn't kill European batspublished on May 06, 2011
White-nose syndrome, a fungus spreading like wildfire through hibernating North American bats, has just been reported in 12 European countries. But unlike the American epidemic, which typically kills 75 percent or more of exposed bats, the European infection has not been associated with mortality.
White-nose Syndrome Confirmed In Kentucky Batpublished on Apr 13, 2011
FRANKFORT, Ky. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have detected the presence of white-nose syndrome in a bat residing in Trigg County, located in southwest Kentucky. A suspect little brown bat from a cave in Trigg County, about 30 miles southeast of Paducah, was submitted to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) in Athens, Ga., which confirmed the disease. White-nose syndrome was first detected in New York state in 2006. It has since killed more than one million cave-dwelling bats in eastern North America. Mortality rates of bats have reached almost 100 percent in multi-year infected caves. With confirmation of the syndrome in Kentucky, a total of 16 states - mostly in the eastern U.S. - and three Canadian provinces have now been confirmed infected. This is likely the most significant disease threat to wildlife Kentucky has ever seen, said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner, Dr. Jonathan Gassett. It would be professionally irresponsible to take no action to stop or slow this disease. Bats are an important part of our natural environment, acting as pollinators and consuming mosquitoes and other insect pests across the landscape. We plan to aggressively manage this threat as it occurs in Kentucky in order to protect and conserve our bat populations. Anticipating the arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in Kentucky, biologists have taken exhaustive measures to limit its spread. We have had a long-term partnership to address white-nose syndrome in Kentucky since it was first discovered in New York state, said Mike Armstrong, USFWS Regional WNS Coordinator. Now that it is confirmed here, we will continue to support the state in their research and management to limit the spread as much as we can. WNS is known to be transmitted primarily from bat to bat, but fungal spores may be inadvertently carried to caves by humans on clothing and caving gear. Both state and federal agencies took pro-active measures to limit potential human movement of the disease. These measures included increased education on decontamination procedures, surveillance, monitoring and cave closures on private, state and federal lands. All measures were included in the Kentucky WNS Response Plan developed in 2009. Kentucky was the first state to develop a response plan to address WNS both before and after its arrival in the state. Almost 100 hibernacula were checked throughout Kentucky during the winter. The Trigg County cave was one of five revisited by scientists upon confirmation of WNS in Ohio. These hibernacula were rechecked due to their known proximity to infected sites in adjacent states. The privately-owned Trigg County cave is used as a hibernaculum by six species, including the endangered Indiana bat, and is a summer roost for the endangered gray bats. Surrounding caves were checked within a 16-mile radius; no additional infected sites were found. Measures were taken to limit the spread of WNS beyond the Trigg County cave that is regularly used as a hibernaculum by more than 2,000 bats. These included removing and euthanizing 60 highly suspect little brown bats and tri-colored bats, as they were not expected to survive. Bats collected will be used to provide critical information to researchers. Under the direction of Kentucky Fish and Wildlifes veterinarian, Dr. Aaron Hecht, staff from SCWDS collected samples from the bats. A better understanding of the disease process will enhance our ability to respond to outbreaks, said Hecht. Spores of Geomyces destructans, the fungus associated with WNS, are known to reside in the environment. Physical barriers were strategically affixed within the cave to prevent bats from roosting in areas known to harbor infected individuals. These barriers will not alter the climate or restrict passageways used by bats. Scientists are attempting to reduce the possibility of other bats from coming in direct contact with the fungal spores and becoming infected. White-nose syndrome does not affect people. Pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats in the United States likely save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year, and yet insectivorous bats are among the most overlooked economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America, according to an analysis published in this weeks Science magazine Policy Forum. (Source: USGS) For more information about white-Nose syndrome, visit these websites: www.fw.ky.govwww.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/sets/72157626485081164 www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2743
Fungus sweeps across the country, killing batspublished on Apr 03, 2011
Reporting from Ruidoso, N.M. More than 100 hibernating bats hang from the vaulted ceiling of a chilly gallery in central New Mexico's Fort Stanton Cave, seemingly unaware of the lights from helmet lanterns sweeping over their gargoyle-like faces.The mood is heavy with anxiety as biologists Marikay Ramsey and Debbie Buecher search for signs of white-nose syndrome, a novel, infectious and lethal cold-loving fungus that digests the skin and wings of hibernating bats and smudges their muzzles with a powdery white growth.
Bats Worth Billions to Agriculture: Pest-control Services at Riskpublished on Apr 01, 2011
Pest-control services provided by insect-eating bats in the United States likely save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year, and yet insectivorous bats are among the most overlooked economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America, according to an analysis published in this weeks Science magazine Policy Forum. "People often ask why we should care about bats, said Paul Cryan, a U.S. Geological Survey research scientist and one of the studys authors. This analysis suggests that bats are saving us big bucks by gobbling up insects that eat or damage our crops. It is obviously beneficial that insectivorous bats are patrolling the skies at night above our fields and forests these bats deserve help." The value of the pest-control services to agriculture provided by bats in the U.S. alone range from a low of $3.7 billion to a high of $53 billion a year, estimated the studys authors, scientists from the University of Pretoria (South Africa), USGS, University of Tennessee and Boston University. They also warned that noticeable economic losses to North American agriculture could occur in the next 4 to 5 years as a result of emerging threats to bat populations. Bats eat tremendous quantities of flying pest insects, so the loss of bats is likely to have long-term effects on agricultural and ecological systems, said Justin Boyles, a researcher with the University of Pretoria and the lead author of the study. Consequently, not only is the conservation of bats important for the well-being of ecosystems, but it is also in the best interest of national and international economies. A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adults thumb, can eat 4 to 8 grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night, the authors wrote. Although this may not sound like much, it adds up the loss of the one million bats in the Northeast has probably resulted in between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects no longer being eaten each year by bats in the region. Additionally, because the agricultural value of bats in the Northeast is small compared with other parts of the country, such losses could be even more substantial in the extensive agricultural regions in the Midwest and the Great Plains where wind-energy development is booming and the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome was recently detected, said Tom Kunz, a professor of ecology at Boston University, another co-author. Although these estimates include the costs of pesticide applications that are not needed because of the pest-control services bats provide, Boyles and his colleagues said they did not account for the detrimental effects of pesticides on ecosystems nor the economic benefits of bats suppressing pest insects in forests, both of which may be considerable. Bat populations are at risk in some areas of the country as a result of the emerging disease of white-nose syndrome. The loss of bats to white-nose syndrome has largely occurred during the past 4 years, after the disease first appeared in upstate New York. Since then, the fungus thought to cause white-nose syndrome has spread southward and westward and has now been found in 16 states and 3 Canadian provinces. Bat declines in the Northeast, the most severely affected region in the U.S. thus far, have exceeded 70 percent. Populations of at least one species, the little brown bat, have declined so precipitously that scientists expect the species to disappear from the region within the next 20 years. Scientists are also concerned with the potential for losses of certain species of migratory bats at wind-energy facilities. By one estimate, published by Kunz and colleagues in 2007, about 33,000 to 111,000 bats will die each year by 2020 just in the mountainous region of the Mid-Atlantic Highlands from direct collisions with wind turbines as well as lung damage caused by pressure changes bats experience when flying near moving turbine blades. The issue raised by the authors is that the impacts on bat populations from white nose syndrome and wind turbines are just beginning to interact and might result in economic consequences. We hope that our analysis gets people thinking more about the value of bats and why their conservation is important, said Gary McCracken, a University of Tennessee professor and co-author of the analysis. The bottom line is that the natural pest-control services provided by bats save farmers a lot of money. The authors conclude that solutions to reduce threats to bat populations may be possible in the coming years, but that such work is most likely to be driven by public support that will require a wider awareness of the benefits of insectivorous bats. The article, Economic importance of bats in agriculture, appears in the April 1 edition of Science. Authors are J.G. Boyles, P. Cryan, G. McCracken and T. Kunz.
Deadly White-Nose Syndrome threatens bats in Buckeye Statepublished on Mar 28, 2011
Ohio bats are happily hibernating, but a fatal syndrome targeting the winged mammals could soon strike.Its knocking on Ohios door right now, said Greg Turner, an endangered-mammal specialist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Lawrence County has four confirmed sites just miles from the Ohio border.
White Nose Syndrome Confirmedpublished on Mar 11, 2011
Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists have confirmed that White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has been found in an abandoned mine complex in western Washington County. The mine complex serves as an important bat hibernacula, or bat hibernation site. WNS is a malady causing unprecedented bat mortality across the eastern United States. Affected bats display a white fungal growth on their muzzles or other exposed skin.
Silent bat killer creeps closer to Illinoispublished on Mar 04, 2011
Wildlife officials have sounded the all-clear for white-nose syndrome in Illinois for this year, but after several bats tested positive for white-nose syndrome in south central Indiana last month, its just a matter of time before the deadly fungus will spread to the Land of Lincoln.
Tackling Wildlife Disease (Podcast)published on Feb 23, 2011
Susan Bence is WUWMs environmental reporter. She produced our piece on the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison. The NWHC is where the leading work on White-Nose Syndrome in bats is taking place.
Strange disease is killing Virginia's batspublished on Feb 14, 2011
Death showed its face right away.As scientists approached Hamilton Cave to check on the bats inside, they found the body of one wedged in a crack outside the cave's mouth.The bat's nose was white, as if the thumb-sized animal had poked its gargoyle face into flour."The first white-nose victim at Hamilton Cave," geologist Wil Orndorff said somberly.
White Nose Syndrome Spreads to Bats in 2 More Statespublished on Feb 10, 2011
With new discoveries of white nose syndrome, the mysterious bat disease, in Indiana and North Carolina, the scourge has now been documented in 16 states and two Canadian provinces, from New Hampshire to Oklahoma, according to the accounting of the Center for Biological Diversity. Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/white-nose-syndrome-map#ixzz1DbPDJspU
The Desperate Battle Against Killer Bat Plaguepublished on Dec 08, 2010
Its a postcard October morning at Kentuckys Carter Caves state park. Sycamore and hickory have already turned orange, and the sun crests ancient Appalachian slopes against a cloudless sky. With Halloween a few days away, a life-sized Elvis dummy peeks out a visitor center window. Middle schoolers on a field trip are coming down one of the trails, preceded by their laughter.The idyll is complete but for two details: All but two of the parks caves are permanently shut to the public, and in the parking lot are six researchers in Tyvek bodysuits and gloves, like extras from Outbreak.The caves are closed, and bodysuits required, because of White Nose Syndrome, a bat-killing disease more virulent than any other disease in the known history of mammals. As the children walk to their bus, I wonder if theyll remember this morning as adults, and tell their own kids about a time when bats lived in caves. Whats wrong with the bats? a girl asks, her tour guides having kept the day shadow-free. Theyre sick, I say.
Bat Crashpublished on Dec 01, 2010
On the outskirts of Madison, Wisconsin, stands a low brick structure equipped with ventilation scrubbers and surrounded by a tall chain-link fence: the Tight Isolation Building of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC), a federal research facility devoted to combating wildlife diseases. Inside, a cinder block corridor circuits the Animal Isolation Wing, passing a series of well-sealed experiment rooms, each visible through a thick window. One room is furnished with sawdust and burrowlike pipes to approximate the habitat for prairie dogs involved in a vaccine trial against Yersinia pestis, the organism that causes plague. In another room zebra finches in birdcages are playing a role in research toward a vaccine for West Nile virus. Two rooms are darkened, for the comfort of hibernating bats. The first contains normal animals of the species Myotis lucifugus, commonly called little brown bats. They are the controls. The second dark room houses little browns exposed to Geomyces destructans, a filamentous white fungus of unknown origin that first appeared among North American bats in 2006. In just four years, it has hit hibernating bat populations in New York, Vermont, and a growing list of other states and Canadian provinces more lethally than Yersinia pestis hit the peasants of medieval France.
Proposed rules to protect bat population criticizedpublished on Nov 29, 2010
Rules designed to slow or stop the spread of the deadly bat disease known as white-nose syndrome into Wisconsin were attacked by critics Monday as being too heavy-handed, especially for commercial operators who could be required to seal off their caves from bats.
Does a White Nose Belie a Wing Load of Problems? More on WNSpublished on Nov 29, 2010
In a recent post, I wrote about White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) in hibernating bats in North America. WNS was first documented on February 2006, by a recreational caver exploring Howes Cave in New York, who photographed a bat with an unusual white growth on its muzzle. In the few years since that picture was snapped, hundreds of thousands of bats in North America have died from
Decline of little brown bats 'definitely worsening'published on Nov 06, 2010
The catastrophic drop in the little brown bat population is continuing, with the numbers down 50 percent from last summer and 80 percent from 2008, according to the results of New Jersey's annual summer bat count. The dramatic declines are due to a fungus that attacks the bats during their winter hibernation in caves and abandoned mines. The outbreak is called white-nose syndrome for a white fuzz the fungus produces on the nose, ears and wing membranes of infected bats.
When a Cold, Wet, White Nose Isnt a Good Thingpublished on Nov 03, 2010
On February 16, 2006, a recreational caver exploring Howes Cave in Albany, New York, photographed a bat with an unusual white growth on its muzzle. In the few years since that picture was snapped, hundreds of thousands of bats in North America have died from White-Nose Syndrome (WNS; 1,2).
DNA-based detection of the fungal pathogen Geomyces destructans in soil from bat hibernaculapublished on Oct 07, 2010
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging disease causing unprecedented morbidity and mortality among bats in eastern North America. The disease is characterized by cutaneous infection of hibernating bats by the psychrophilic fungus, Geomyces destructans. Detection of G. destructans in environments occupied by bats will be critical for WNS surveillance, management, and characterization of the fungal lifecycle. We initiated an rRNA gene region-based molecular survey to characterize the distribution of G. destructans in soil samples collected from bat hibernacula in the eastern United States using an existing PCR test. Although this test did not specifically detect G. destructans in soil samples based on a presence/absence metric, it did favor amplification of DNA from putative Geomyces species. Cloning and sequencing of PCR products amplified from 24 soil samples revealed 74 unique sequence variants representing 12 clades. Clones with exact sequence matches to G. destructans were identified in three of 19 soil samples from hibernacula in states where WNS is known to occur. Geomyces destructans was not identified in an additional five samples collected outside of the region where WNS has been documented. This study highlights the diversity of putative Geomyces spp. in soil from bat hibernacula and indicates that further research is needed to better define the taxonomy of this genus and to develop enhanced diagnostic tests for rapid and specific detection of G. destructans in environmental samples.
Mysterious Bat-Killing Disease Appears Harmless in Europepublished on Sep 20, 2010
Almost four years after bats in the Eastern United States began awakening from their winter slumber only to die en masse, the mechanism by which the so-called white-nose syndrome kills remains a mystery. The fungus associated with it, however, appears to have a European connection, scientists now say. Reports of European bats sporting the white puffs of fungi on their muzzles, which are the signature of white-nose syndrome in the United States, date back to the early 1980s. But no one paid much attention, because it was not associated with mass mortalities, according to Gudrun Wibbelt, a veterinary pathologist with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin.
Scientists Find Drugs That May Fight Bat Diseasepublished on Sep 13, 2010
Scientists may have found some ways to help the nation's bats, which are being wiped out by a novel fungal disease.Lab tests show that several drugs can fight the germ and that some antiseptics might help decontaminate areas where bats live or the shoes and hands of people who visit them, researchers reported at an infectious-diseases conference Sunday."Both of those are critical elements. The decontamination is in my mind the most immediate need," because people may be helping to spread the disease, called white-nose syndrome, said Jeremy Coleman, who heads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's response to the problem.