First detected in the Texas Panhandle in early 2017, the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome (WNS), P. destructans, has now spread into Central Texas. The fungus was detected on four different bat species, including a single Mexican free-tailed batthe same species that resides in Bracken Cave.
While there have been no bat deaths attributed to WNS in Texas, BCI has been working closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to monitor Texas caves for signs of the disease.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been a valued partner of BCIs since we first moved to Texas nearly 30 years ago, says Mylea Bayless, BCIs Senior Director of Network and Partnerships. They are really proactive and are leading by example, but also are considerate and sensitive to the delicate nature of the work. Considering Texas is home to the largest number of bat species in the U.S., they are a valuable ally as we work to mitigate the potential effects of WNS.
WNS is most associated with bat species that hibernate for long periods each winter. While there is some concern that Mexican free-tailed bats can carry the fungus to their wintering grounds in Mexico (as well as Central and South America), they are not typically a hibernating species. Therefore, BCI and its partners are not yet sure how contact with the fungus will affect these bats.
Currently, BCI is working with the TPWD, Western Michigan State University and Ball State University on noninvasive experimental treatments in North Texas.