WNS Blog

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

Guest blog: cave and karst program director Cory Holliday discusses TNC's artificial cave project

Halloween is on its way and with it comes the festive images of black bats flittering through a leafless forest. While this iconography may have contributed to bats’ unfortunate public image, the fear of losing our bats is something truly scary. Will our cave hibernating bats go the way of the American chestnut, victim to a foreign fungus, preserved in memory through holiday traditions? Now that’s a frightful thought. White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is still an emerging pathogen. Although we continue to research, monitor, track, acquire background data, etc., we are far from having enough...
Cory HollidayThe Nature Conservancy artificial cave diagramCory Holliday, TNC

Guest blog: NPS technician Shawn Thomas listens to bats at Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument in northern California is a hotspot for bats, with both high diversity (14 bat species) and abundance (thousands of individuals) of bats making use of the monument. The presence of so many bats is due to the wealth of habitat – with hundreds of caves to choose from, bats can be selective and find specific caves that suit differing maternal (summer) and hibernacula (winter) needs. For years, Lava Beds staff have searched for Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) colonies in the summer and counted these bats as they hibernate in the winter. Recently,...
Researcher holding a Townsend's big-eared bat. Photo credit: Ann Froschauer/USFW

Guest blog: Student Ashley Saulsberry learns about bats, white-nose syndrome during summer internship

In late 2010, I discovered this blog and began to correspond with Ann, with the USFWS, about WNS and bats, and during early 2011 she connected me with Dr. Joy O’Keefe, with Indiana State University, so we could arrange an internship for me during the summer. This June, I traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to observe and assist with Dr. O’Keefe’s research on the effects of prescribed fire on roosting habitat of the Indiana bat. It all seemed a bit daunting at first: learning how to mistnet to catch bats, perform radio telemetry to track bats, and properly decontaminate gear to...
Student Ashley Saulsberry at Twentymile in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkResearcher holds a big brown bat. Photo credit: Ashley Saulsberry

In the field: Townsend’s big-eared bats in Colorado

While presenting at the 2011 National Speleological Society (NSS) Convention in Glenwood Springs, CO a few weeks ago, I joined bat researchers from USGS, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division working with Townsend’s big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii) near Marble, Colorado. The site was an abandoned mine, protected by a gate, and home to a maternity colony of over 700 Townsend’s big-eared bats. These bats are a state species of concern in Colorado and several other western states. I love big-eared bats, they are some of my favorites- I’ve...
Researcher holding a Townsend's big-eared bat. Photo credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWResearchers set up the mist net outside the maternity colony site (mine). Wildlife technician removes Townsend's big-eared bat from mist net. Researcher inspects Townsend's big-eared bat. Photo credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWSBiologist releases bat. Photo credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWS

Guest blog: Bat researcher Joy O’Keefe invigorated by curiousity of young scientist

A few months ago I posted about a high school student, Frances, who had contacted me with an interest in WNS. Not long after, I started corresponding with another student, Ashley Saulsberry, in Tennessee. Ashley was also interested in WNS and what she could do to help. I connected Frances and Ashley, both of whom were working on school projects related to WNS. I also put Ashley in touch with a good friend and colleague of mine, Joy O’Keefe. Joy is an Assistant Professor and bat researcher at Indiana State University. Some of Joy’s work takes her to east Tennessee to work with Indiana bats in...
Student scientist, Ashley SaulsberryAshley's whiteboard drawing of the Indiana bat roost treeJoy O'Keefe inspecting a bat

Guest blog: resource scientist Tony Elliott recaps Missouri bat surveys

In the middle of a tough hibernation season for bats, it is great to hear some good news. ?With several new states and a third Canadian province confirming a number of new WNS sites in 2011, Missouri remains hopeful that the disease will not take hold. I was fortunate enough to be invited to assist in some Indiana bat and WNS surveys with Missouri Department of Conservation resource scientist Tony Elliot and cave biology assistant Shelly Colatskie earlier this year. Tony was kind enough to offer this update after MDC’s winter survey season. We have wrapped a busy winter of cave survey...

Guest blog: wildlife biologist Ella Rowan inspired by students

To say it can sometimes be a personal challenge to remain positive while working on WNS would be an understatement. We often hear “is there any good news?” when it comes to WNS. Usually, the positivity in this work comes from our partnerships with other federal, state and tribal agencies and our research, university and NGO partners. Occasionally something amazing happens and we are reminded that there are a lot of people who really care about bats and what we do. Guest blogger Ella Rowan talks a little bit about being inspired to continue her work with WNS. In January 2011, I...