Frequently Asked Questions

What is white-nose syndrome?

White-nose syndrome is a disease that is killing hibernating bats in eastern North America. WNS was first documented at four sites in eastern New York 2007. Subsequently, photographs taken in February 2006 emerged of apparently affected bats at an additional site.

Named for the white fungus on the muzzles and wings of affected bats, WNS has rapidly spread to multiple sites throughout...

What species of bats are affected?

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is known to predominantly affect hibernating bats. More than half of the 47 bat species living in the United States and Canada rely on hibernation for winter survival.

Eleven bat species, including three endangered species and one proposed species, are already affected by WNS or exposed to the causative fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd)....

Is global climate change a possible cause of white-nose syndrome?

While many possible causes of white-nose syndrome are being investigated, there is currently no credible evidence to support a link between climate change and WNS. Microclimates in caves and mines where bats hibernate have been stable during the time period when WNS emerged, and there are no data indicating changes in insect prey populations in the affected areas. Potential impacts of global...

What is the effect of white-nose syndrome on bats?

We have seen 90 to 100 percent mortality of bats (primarily little brown bats) at hibernacula in the northeastern United States. However, there may be differences in mortality by site and by species within sites.

The endangered Indiana bat hibernates in many of the affected sites. We are closely monitoring Indiana bat populations in many hibernacula and, to the extent possible, in their...

Does white-nose syndrome pose a risk to human health?

Thousands of people have visited affected caves and mines since white-nose syndrome was first observed, and there have been no reported human illnesses attributable to WNS. We are still learning about WNS, but we know of no risk to humans from contact with WNS-affected bats. However, we urge taking precautions and not exposing yourself to WNS. Biologists and researchers use protective clothing...

What should cavers know and do?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states request that cavers observe all cave closures and advisories, and avoid caves, mines or passages containing hibernating bats to minimize disturbance to them. The Service asks that cavers and cave visitors stay out of all caves in the affected states and adjoining states to help slow the potential spread of white-nose syndrome. Local and...

What are federal and state agencies doing to find the cause and a cure for white-nose syndrome?

An extensive network of state and federal agencies is working to investigate the cause, source and spread of bat deaths associated with white-nose syndrome, and to develop management strategies to minimize the impacts of WNS.

The overall WNS investigation has three primary focus areas: research, monitoring/management and outreach. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is...

What should you do if you find dead or dying bats, or if you observe bats with signs of white-nose syndrome?

What are signs of white-nose syndrome?

Bats may lose their fat reserves, which they need to survive hibernation, long before the winter is over. They often leave their hibernacula during the winter and die. As winter progresses, increasing numbers of dead bats have been found at many affected locations.

White-nose syndrome may be associated with some or all of the following unusual bat behavior:

Where has white-nose syndrome been observed?

Biologists and/or cavers have documented white-nose syndrome or Geomyces destructans in bat hibernacula or bats in nineteen states: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. Four Canadian provinces, New Brunswick, Nova...

How is white-nose syndrome transmitted?

Scientists believe that white-nose syndrome is transmitted primarily from bat to bat. There is a strong possibility that it may also be transmitted by humans inadvertently carrying the fungus from cave to cave on their clothing and gear.

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What is the purpose of the national plan?

As WNS spreads, the challenges facing wildlife managers in understanding threats to bat populations and managing WNS continue to increase. Collaboration among state, federal and tribal wildlife management agencies and NGOs is essential to the effectiveness of the collective response and ultimately to the survival of bat species across North America.

The national plan provides a...

What is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommending in its cave advisory?

The Service’s cave advisory has four recommendations to limit the possible spread of white-nose syndrome by human activity:

  1. A voluntary moratorium on caving in states with confirmed WNS and all adjoining states; Nationally, in states not WNS-affected or adjoining states, use clothing and gear that has never been in caves in WNS-affected or adjoining states; State and federal...
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