Close-up of the signature symptom of White-nose Syndrome on a cluster of little brown myotis in Canoe Creek Mine.
Michael Schirmacher

Finding solutions to protect bats from a deadly disease

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America in the past decade. Now confirmed in nearly half of all hibernating bat species in North America and widespread across the continent, WNS disrupts natural hibernation cycles causing bats to die from the disease during winter. The disease threatens several bat species with regional and global extinction. At Bat Conservation International, we work tirelessly to develop and implement strategies to help bats survive WNS.

Objectives

DISCOVER, TEST, AND IMPLEMENT SOLUTIONS TO INCREASE SURVIVAL OF BATS AFFECTED BY WNS
Lead research and monitoring efforts to inform species status and the prioritization of conservation actions for bats affected by WNS

Program details

Bat Conservation International has been a partner in the fight against WNS from the beginning.  From the first science strategy meeting held in Albany, New York in 2008 to today, we have been a leader to ensure that bats threatened by this terrible disease get the research and conservation attention they need to survive.  BCI’s dedication to bats impacted by WNS has never been stronger and we now have a team of scientists working year-round to test innovative strategies and research solutions aimed at improving survival of bats and slowing the spread of the pathogen at scale.

We target our research efforts on solutions that can be applied at scale either through species intervention or habitat protection and restoration. Research is communicated through scientific and management channels to inform how best to protect bats.  We work with a talented consortium of academic researchers as well as federal and state agency biologists to identify research priorities and deliver robust science-based results.

 
A UV-light lure hanging in a tree in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to attract a patch of nocturnal moths for bats to feed on during the fall swarming period
Kristin Jonasson

Developing and implementing strategies to help bats survive WNS

Our critical steps to accomplish this goal include:

  • Test ways to increase survival for bats exposed to WNS
  • Lead monitoring and surveillance efforts to inform management response to the spread and impacts of WNS in North America
  • Provide analytic support to quantify the population impacts of WNS and identifying conservation priorities to protect hibernating bats
 
BCI STAFF DR. WINIFRED FRICK AND FRAN HUTCHINS CONSULTING A CAVE MAP DURING A SURVEY TO SWAB BATS FOR THE PREVALENCE OF PD IN TEXAS
Kristin Jonasson

How can I help fight White-nose Syndrome?

  1. Stay out of sites where bats are hibernating and decontaminate caving gear and clothes after visiting any cave sites, even if you didn’t see any bats. People can move the fungus on their clothing and gear and spread the fungus.
  2. Never take caving gear or wear clothing used in a WNS area and use it in an area that does not currently have WNS.
  3. If you find a sick or injured bat or need a bat removed, contact your local wildlife agency. Do not touch a wild bat.
  4. Contact your state or federal legislators and ask them to support and increase funding for White-nose Syndrome research.
  5. Learn more about bats and their value and share what you know with others.
  6. Visit whitenosesyndrome.org for more information.
 
Little brown bat with White-nose Syndrome at Howe’s Cave in 2008
Alan Hicks

Impacts of this deadly disease

  • Hibernating bats with WNS have white fuzzy fungal growth  on their muzzles and wings.
  • Bats with WNS expend as much as twice the amount of energy as healthy bats during winter hibernation which can cause starvation and death.
  • Populations of the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), the Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), and the tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) have declined by more than 90% from WNS in the past decade.

Key Collaborators

  • Academic researchers
  • Industry groups (ex. EPRI)
  • Private landowners
  • State agency biologists
  • U.S. federal agency biologists

The staggering loss of bats from White-nose Syndrome can feel overwhelming. However, the resiliency of the dedicated community of people fighting tirelessly to find solutions and protect bats from this disease is a testament to our grit and commitment to saving species.

Dr. Winifred Frick Chief Scientist
A northern myotis is perched on a rock
J. Scott Altenbach