ENDANGERED SPECIES • SAVING OUR BATS by Mollie Matteson
Campaign to fight bat crisis gains force
In the northeastern United States, bats summering in attics, barns and old church steeples — and emerging at dusk to gobble tons of insects — are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Now, as the bat-killing disease behind that tragic trend spreads westward, the Center is ramping up our campaign to stop it.
White-nose syndrome was first discovered in 2006 in a cave near Albany, N.Y., and appears to be caused by a previously unknown fungus named Geomyces destructans. Now in its fifth year, the disease has wrought stunning changes in bat diversity in the Northeast. While scientists know far more about white-nose syndrome than they did a few years ago, there’s still much to learn about its transmission, potential treatments and species recovery.
A little brown bat covered with the fungus that warns of white- nose syndrome. Eight other bat species have been found with the fungus, with many more at risk.
© LARRY MASTER/MASTERIMAGES.oRG
ibernating bats in the eastern United States are disappearing at a staggering rate. The culprit is white-nose syndrome, a fast-moving, lethal disease that has already killed more than 1 million U.S. bats. If left unchecked, it threatens to expand across the country, wiping out scores of bats and possibly pushing some species to the edge of extinction. H
That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity this year ramped up our efforts to save North America’s bats before it’s too late. We’re pushing Congress to fund research into this disease and urging federal land managers to take important precautionary steps to stem spread of the disease. And this summer, we’ve launched a new citizen-driven Save Our Bats campaign to help our supporters take action as well.
Scientists worry the disease could spread from coast to coast, raising significant concerns about the survival of up to two dozen North American bat species. Last year, the disease was found for the first time west of the Mississippi River, so it clearly has the potential to quickly cover large distances.
This past winter, white-nose syndrome appeared for the first time in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana and Maine, as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The disease is now confirmed in 17 states and four provinces. In addition, bats in Missouri and Oklahoma have been found with G. destructans on their bodies, though they haven’t yet showed symptomatic signs.
Bat numbers continued to plummet this past winter in places like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where the disease was documented for the first time in the winter of 2008-09. Mortality rates are commonly greater than 95 percent in affected caves and sometimes as high as 100 percent. Bat deaths may be leveling off in regions
learn more about white-nose
syndrome and how you can sign up to become a
bat advocate, visit us at SaveOurBats.org and
on our “Save Our Bats” Facebook page.