BCI announced today that early signs of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) have been detected at one of the worlds premier bat conservation sites, Bracken Cave Preserve

Mexican free-tailed bats emerging out of Bracken Cave.
Image: Jonathan Alonzo / Bat Conservation International.

AUSTIN, TX (May 8, 2019) Bat Conservation International (BCI) announced today that early signs of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) have been detected at one of the worlds premier bat conservation sites, Bracken Cave Preserve, home to up to 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats. The detection of the Pd fungus is part of a coordinated state-wide surveillance and monitoring effort of bat colonies across Texas to proactively spot signs of the fungus in critical bat habitats across the state.

We will not back down from this threat, said Dr. Winifred Frick, BCIs Chief Scientist. Weve been anticipating this problem for more than a decade and are poised to respond with the protective measures that our bats deserve. We are working closely with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as well as the White-nose Syndrome research community to continue to expand our efforts to understand what this means for bats in Texas, and to develop long-term solutions for protecting those species that are vulnerable to this terrible disease.

The Pd fungus causes the disease White-nose Syndrome (WNS) that kills bats when they hibernate in winter. Across North America, WNS has killed millions of hibernating bats over the past decade, causing the most severe threat to bats on the continent.

The fungus has been spreading in Texas since 2017, when it was first detected in the Texas Panhandle. When Pd was first detected in the state, response activities ramped up dramatically. Although the invasive fungus has now been detected in 22 counties across Texas, there are no signs of the WNS disease on bats in Texas yet. Specifically, there are no signs of the disease at Bracken Cave nor on Mexican free-tailed bats, the species that forms spectacular large colonies at Bracken Cave and at other cave or bridge roosts in the Texas Hill Country. While BCI does not anticipate that Mexican free-tailed bats are vulnerable, the organization is not leaving anything to chance. BCI plans to increase surveillance and monitoring at the cave and surrounding areas.

Most of the millions of Mexican free-tailed bats that use Bracken Cave migrate south during winter and do not spend long periods of time inactive. Although some Mexican free-tailed bats stay overwinter in Bracken Cave, these bats usually head out to hunt for insects on warm nights, staying active throughout the winter. This habit of staying active means Mexican free-tailed bats will likely not be vulnerable to WNS disease, which affects bats during long periods of inactive hibernation.

Two species in Texas that hibernate during winter may not be so lucky. The tri-colored bat has experienced severe declines at winter roosts throughout its range. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and partners are actively working on monitoring tri-colored bats in eastern Texas. The cave myotis is another species that may be vulnerable to the disease, and BCI is focusing research efforts to find ways of protecting this species in Texas.

About Bat Conservation International

The mission of Bat Conservation International is to conserve the worlds bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet. For more information visit batcon.org.

Media Contact: Javier Folgar
Bat Conservation International
Tel: 512.327.9721 ext. 410
Email: jfolgar@batcon.org