WNS Blog

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

Installing thermal mat on roof of bunker
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,...

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

Wayne Clifford writing at Anchorage Provincial Park, Grand Manan, NB (2006), photo credit: M.J. Edwards
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...

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

Making fruit kabobs at Zoo New England
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...

Visiting Bracken Bat Cave: the BatsLIVE partnership

Bracken Bat Cave entrance (photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)
 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,...

Guest blog: Discovering WNS in Missouri

Photo of first bat identified with WNS in Missouri (credit: Shelly Colatskie/MDC)
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,...

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

Eastern small footed bat with WNS, credit Ryan von Linden/NYDEC
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...

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

Carol Meteyer examines a Townsend's big-eared bat
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...

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

Cory Holliday
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...

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

Researcher holding a Townsend's big-eared bat. Photo credit: Ann Froschauer/USFW
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,...

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

Student Ashley Saulsberry at Twentymile in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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...