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. After that, photographs taken in February 2006 were found, showing affected bats at another site.

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

Where has white-nose syndrome been observed?

White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in bat hibernation sites in 32 states and 7 Canadian provinces: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina,Tennessee,...

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.

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

While many possible causes of white-nose syndrome are being studied, no credible evidence links climate change and WNS. Weather conditions in caves and mines where bats hibernate were stable during when WNS emerged, and no data show changes in insect prey numbers in affected areas. Potential impacts of global climate change will continue to be monitored as we learn more about the disease.

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

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

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

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

  • The Center for Disease Control has additional information for collecting and disposing of dead bats.

  • Contact your state wildlife agency, file an electronic report in those states that offer this service, e-mail U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in your area (http://...

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:

What are federal and state agencies doing to fight 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 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...