From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

White-nose Syndrome Confirmed in Federally Endangered Gray Bats
May 29, 2012


Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome in endangered gray bats in Tennessee.


This is the first confirmation of WNS in federally listed gray bats. White-nose syndrome had previously been documented in six hibernating bat species, including the federally listed endangered Indiana bat. Significant mortality has been documented in many colonies of hibernating Indiana bats in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. While no mortality has been observed in gray bats that can be linked to WNS, the confirmation that gray bats can be infected is cause for concern, according to Fish and Wildlife officials.


“The news that another federally endangered bat species, the gray bat, has been confirmed with white-nose syndrome is devastating for anyone who cares about bats and the benefits they provide to people,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year.”


The afflicted gray bats were found on two separate winter surveillance trips conducted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and The Nature Conservancy. Biologists observed white fungus on the muzzles, wing and tail membranes of several bats. Specimens were collected, and the disease was diagnosed by histopathology at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia and confirmed the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.


The gray bat, listed as an endangered species in 1976, lives in limestone karst areas of the southeastern United States. Most gray bats live in caves year-round. Gray bats are endangered largely because of their habit of living in very large numbers in only a few caves, making them extremely vulnerable to disturbance.


White-nose syndrome has decimated bat populations across eastern North America, with mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent at some sites. First documented in New York in 2006, the disease has spread into 19 states and four Canadian provinces. Bats with WNS may exhibit unusual behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside during the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines where they hibernate. Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers near these hibernacula.


For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome. For more information about the endangered gray bat, visit http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/mammals/grbat_fc.html .
 

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