Bats White Nosed Syndrome Update

(Originally posted June 2010) Canadian White Nose Syndrome has been found in some bats in the Bancroft/Minden area of Ontario. This is a white fungal disease that only effects bats and is not transmittable to humans. We first heard of this last year where the fungus attacked bat populations in New York State and knew it was only a matter of time until they effected populations in Ontario.

White nose syndrome has killed hundreds of thousands of bats in the northeastern U.S. The first reported cases where in a cave near Albany, New York, in 2006. The syndrome has also been found in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Maryland and Vermont.

“Bats, like all wildlife, are an important part of our biodiversity. We understand the potential impact white nose syndrome can have on bat populations. As such we continue to monitor the condition and work with our partners in wildlife health to better understand its origins and minimize its impact.” Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources

Bats are flying mammals in the order Chiroptera (pronounced /kaɪˈrɒptərə/). The forelimbs of bats are webbed and developed as wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums and colugos, glide rather than fly, and only for short distances. Bats do not flap their entire forelimbs, as birds do, but instead flap their spread out digits,[2] which are very long and covered with a thin membrane or patagium. Chiroptera comes from two Greek words, cheir (χειρ) “hand” and pteron (πτερον) “wing.”

Bats are an important part of Ontario’s biodiversity. Eight different species of bats are found in this province, with Little Brown Bats and Big Brown Bats being the most common.

Bats are the primary predator of night-flying insects like moths and mosquitoes. A single bat can eat three times its body weight in insects every night. But we must remember that bats are wild animals, and like all wildlife, should be left alone. Bats may carry a number of diseases. A small number carry rabies.

The public are asked: Not to enter non-commercial caves and abandoned mines where bats may be present, to help curb the spread of the syndrome. Some research has suggested that this disease may be transferred by humans from one cave to another. Never to touch bats, whether living or dead, as a small percentage carry rabies. If you find unusual bat death, please report them to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.

White Nosed Syndrome Destroying Bat Populations (update)

Canadian (August 5, 2011) update: As we mentioned in our previous article, white nosed syndrome continues to spread across North America will major loss of the bat population. This summer we haven’t seen the normal bats flying around the Saugeen River at night.

At the present time the white nose syndrome has reached epidemic levels across North America with little hope for a cure until recently. There now is a team of researchers (New York State Department of Health) that are testing fungicides that are used to fight athlete’s foot and other infections in humans and animals and trying them to fight the disease in the bats. They presented their findings recently to a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology.

The fungus grows on the bats’ skin during their winter hibernation and causes them to awaken prematurely when there is no food available. They come out of their winter hibernation early and start searching for food in the middle of the winter and end up starving to death. They also believe that the fungus may be damaging their wings.

After trying different fungicides, the researchers found two classes that showed promise. The two classes contained fluconazole, a widely used anti-fungal compound and both were successful in fighting the disease.

Now that they have a probable cure, the challenge will be on how to use the medication. Just spraying the chemicals could prove just as lethal as the fungus, to the bats and other species in the caves. The researchers don’t know how the other species will react to the cure either. There is no previous method developed to accomplish this challenge. As they try to figure out how to apply the cure, the disease continues to spread. At the present time the disease ahs spread as far west as California and south to Tennessee.

It is very important that the disease be stopped. Millions of bats have already been lost and continue to die. They are extremely important in controlling insect pests that destroy our crops.

Wayne Sheridan for Canadian