DEM confirms presence of fungal disease affecting bats in Rhode Island

May 5, 2016

Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that is an often fatal to bats, has been confirmed for the first time in Rhode Island.

A tri-colored bat hibernating in Newport County has tested positive for the presence of the disease, and soil samples collected from two other locations in Newport County confirmed the presence of fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), which causes the disease. There is no evidence that the disease poses a threat to humans, domestic animals, or other wildlife.

The finding was not unexpected, as WNS is present in all other New England states. Rhode Island is the 29th state to confirm the presence of the fungus; the disease has killed approximately six million bats across the eastern US and eastern Canada since its discovery in eastern New York State in 2006. WNS disrupts the behavior and metabolism of bats during hibernation, causing them to deplete their fat reserves. Symptoms include deterioration of the wing membranes or uncharacteristic behavior such as flying outside during the daytime in winter. 

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