With the end of the bat hibernation season comes new reports of white-nose syndrome,. the disease caused by the fungus responsible for the deaths of millions of bats in eastern North America. Some of the latest surfacing are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, and Acadia National Park in Maine.

Here’s a quick rundown on what was found, courtesy of the National Park Service:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Biologists at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have confirmed that both a tricolored and a little brown bat found in a park cave tested positive for white-nose syndrome (WNS). This discovery transitions the park from only finding evidence of the fungus that causes WNS in a cave to now finding animals actively affected by the disease.

Great Smoky Mountains is home to eleven bat species and the largest hibernating population of the endangered Indiana bat in the state of Tennessee. Of the eleven known species that reside in the park, at least six of them that hibernate in park caves and mines are susceptible to WNS.

In 2009 all 16 park caves and two mining complexes were closed to any public entry to delay the importation of the WNS pathogen on visitor’s clothing or gear. Park caves will continue to remain closed to human access to minimize the chances of spreading the disease to other areas.

To see a brief video about White Nose Syndrome in Great Smoky Mountains, please visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/photosmultimedia/wns-bat-video.htm

Acadia National Park

White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in bats at Acadia National Park. This is the first confirmation of WNS in Acadia National Park and in Hancock County, Maine.

“Coastal environments were not thought to have bats in winter and seemed insulated from areas where white-nose syndrome had been found,” said  park’s wildlife biologist Bruce Connery. “This year we have been getting reports about bats being active throughout the winter. We tested two bats found in the park this winter and discovered that they had the disease. Our biggest concern is public response to this announcement and being able to clear up the many misconceptions about bats. Bats are highly valuable in the ecological scheme of the park and only if visitors and neighbors work cooperatively with all conservation efforts will the remaining bats be protected in Maine and throughout the Northeast.”

Park managers and scientists are advising that unless people have special training and equipment, they should avoid bat roosting areas to help slow the transmission of the fungus. Maine may join other states that have placed restrictions on working in winter hibernacula and summer maternal roosts.

For the most up-to-date closures and information, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service White-Nose Syndrome web site: http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome