WNS Blog

Signs of Hope Amidst the Northeast’s Great Bat Recession

When trying to explain how White-nose Syndrome (WNS) continues to affect Vermont’s cave bats, I sometimes compare it to the Great Depression. After the stock market crash in 1929 the recession in the US spread to other countries, just as WNS has spread from the northeastern US into 5 Canadian provinces and continues to move south and west each winter into the 26 states where the disease or the causative fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has been found. Despite fluctuations and hopes of recovery, the Great Depression lasted over a decade and was global in impact. If you think the 10%...

On the frontline of WNS surveillance

Story and photos by Katie Gillies, Imperiled Species Coordinator, Bat Conservation International When you think about Texas caves, do you imagine impressive karst caves, filled with intricate limestone features like soda straws and cave bacon? Or how about about Bracken bat cave, and the millions of free-tailed bats that live there? Those caves are deep in the heart of Texas, too far south to be used by most hibernating bats. On a recent survey for white-nose syndrome (WNS) we were in north Texas, in the panhandle, and it was cold! I was grateful for my coveralls, as they provided...
Clusters of cave myotis.The counting team tallies hibernating bats.Tight squeeze getting to the bats.Cluster of batsFour biologists site at a cave entranceBiologists take a swab sample

In the field: Texas bat research inspires military technology design

If you've ever had the opportunity to watch a bat chasing insect prey at night, you probably noticed that they are amazingly quick and agile fliers. Darting, rolling, changing direction on a dime, avoiding obstacles and (usually) intercepting their insect prey all without the benefit of sight. Contrary to popular belief, bats actually have pretty good eyesight (similar to that of humans), but once it is dark, it isn’t their primary means of navigating or locating and catching prey. So, how do bats catch quick-moving, flying insects in the dark? They use echolocation, emitting very...
Bats visible on thermal imaging (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Camera with bats emerging (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Emerging bats flying off into Texas sunset (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Cases with research equipment at Davis Cave (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Bats emerging from Davis Cave (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Bamberger Chiroptorium (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Air Force photo of bat with incendiary deviceBats emerging from Davis Cave (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)

Guest blog: USFWS Converts Cold War Era Bunker to Bat Hibernacula in Northern Maine

What do you do with 43 cold war era bunkers in northern Maine? This has been an ongoing question within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for nearly two decades. The bunkers are part of the former Loring Air Force Base. Loring Air Force Base’s Strategic Air Command was the country’s first operational nuclear weapons facility that provided storage and aerial delivery capabilities of nuclear warheads. When the base closed in 1994, much of the land surrounding the base (including the bunkers) was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Through this transfer of property,...
Installing thermal mat on roof of bunkerInterior of bunker with roosting substrateLive video feed Exterior of bunker, late March

"Losing all these bats... what does it mean?"

As a public affairs specialist for the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specializing in white-nose syndrome, I spend a lot of time working with the media. When a journalist is covering WNS for the first time, we oftentimes have to start with the bat basics: why bats are unique, important, beautiful. Why people should care about bats and the impacts of WNS. It can be a communications challenge to say the least. But before we can even BEGIN to talk about this terrible and complex disease and its impacts on North American bat populations, I have to sell the journalist on the idea that...
Wayne Clifford writing at Anchorage Provincial Park, Grand Manan, NB (2006), photo credit: M.J. Edwards

Bringing bat science to life: inspiring- and being inspired by- a budding biologist

Note: the bats in the photos are taxidermied specimens. Never handle a bat. A few months ago, I was reading my daily news alerts about bats and white-nose syndrome, and I came across a story about a little girl who was in love with bats, and desperate to do something about white-nose syndrome. Miri, a seven year-old at the time, had been a bat lover since she was just a few years old, and had recently learned about WNS and research that the Boston University bat lab was doing to try to combat the disease. Miri wrote to Santa Claus last year, asking for his help in saving the bats, and...
Making fruit kabobs at Zoo New EnglandJohn, Miri, and Juliet with the fruit kabobs Miri talking with Boston Globe journalistThermal cameraMiri working with the thermal imaging camera and computersMiri with a pallid bat specimenMiri and John inspect bat specimens while the Globe journalist looks onJohn checks himself out through image through the thermal imaging cameraThe Parruccis, USFWS staff, and Boston University bat lab stafflittle brown bats, photo credit: USFWS/Ann FroschauerMiri with a cave myotis

Visiting Bracken Bat Cave: the BatsLIVE partnership

 In my role as White-nose Syndrome Communications Leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I’ve been really lucky to get to be a part of an amazing partnership called BatsLIVE.  Led by the USDA Forest Service and Prince William Network (a division of Prince William County School district in northern Virginia), BatsLIVE is dedicated to helping Americans and people around the world learn about the value of bats and the conservation challenges they face. The BatsLIVE series included several really cool webinars and two live webcasts. The first webcast, held May 17,...
Bracken Bat Cave entrance (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Mexican free-tailed bat (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from Bracken Bat Cave (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Mexican free-tailed bats (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Ann Froschauer with Rodrigues fruit bat (photo credit: Sandy Frost)Rob Mies and Ann Froschauer during BatsLive Distance Learning Adventure (photo credit: Sandy Frost)Dianne Odegard shows a Mexican free-tailed bat (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer) Mexican free-tailed bat on cactus (photo credit: UFWS/Ann Froschauer)BCI and USFS staff excited about bat emergence (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)Sandy Frost and Fran Hutchins (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)

Guest blog: Discovering WNS in Missouri

It's been a while since we had any news about white-nose syndrome (WNS) because the disease is only active while bats are hibernating. This past winter hibernation season brought continued spread of WNS in both the already affected area and into new states. Biologists documented the southernmost (Alabama) and the westernmost (Missouri) confirmations of the disease, bringing the total to 19 states and four Canadian provinces confirmed with the disease. Two additional states, Iowa and Oklahoma, that have confirmed the presence of the fungus that causes the disease, Geomyces destructans,...
Photo of first bat identified with WNS in Missouri (credit: Shelly Colatskie/MDC)Tony Elliott swabs a healthy Indiana bat (credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWS)

The science and uncertainty of estimating the impacts of white-nose syndrome in North American bat populations.

Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released an updated estimate for the number of bats that have died as a result of white-nose syndrome. This estimate, that at least 5.7 to 6.7 million bats have been lost to this terrible disease, represents a considerable and alarming increase from the previous estimate. But sadly, to many us who have been working on WNS for the past few years, I don’t think the number came as a surprise. The last time the scientific community got together to assess how many bats had died from WNS was 2009, just three years after the disease was discovered in...
Eastern small footed bat with WNS, credit Ryan von Linden/NYDECHealthy gray bats, credit Ann Froschauer/USFWSBat remains in Aeolus Cave, credit Ann Froschauer/USFWS

Guest blog: Carol Meteyer from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center discusses a recent study confirming white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats of Europe: Discovery may help to better understand WNS in bats of North America

Scientists confirmed white-nose syndrome (WNS) in hibernating bats from the Czech Republic. These findings, reported in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, are the first documentation that G. destructans can cause disease in bats of Europe. White fungal growth on the muzzles of hibernating bats in Europe has been observed for almost 3 decades. Over the past few years, samples of the white fungal growth from bats in 12 European countries were identified as G. destructans. Until now, however, it was unknown whether this fungus caused disease in European bats. White-nose syndrome was first...
Carol Meteyer examines a Townsend's big-eared batTownsend's big-eared bat specimenCarol Meteyer working with a Townsend's big-eared bat

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