White Nose Syndrome Plagues Bats in Michigan

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

It has devastated bat colonies around the country causing widespread death with no known cure. According to biologists, white nose syndrome has caused “the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century of North America.” There is 100 percent mortality in some colonies and it could possibly lead to the extinction of some bat species.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White nose syndrome is a disease that has spread through the northeastern to central United States at a distressing rate. The disease is identified by the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects the skin on the nose, mouth, ears and wings of bats in hibernation with a white fuzzy growth. During hibernation, bats also display abnormal behaviors such as moving closer towards to the cave opening and waking up and flying during the day. These abnormal behaviors contribute to the early usage of the excess fat they store for the winter months in order to insulate them from the frigid temperatures. Exhausting their fat storage prematurely leads to emaciation and starvation.

White nose syndrome was first documented in 2006 in a cave in New York. Since then, the disease has eradicated more than 5.7 million bats. Species infected include the little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, eastern small-footed bat, Indiana bat, Gray bat, tricolored bat and the big brown bat. The syndrome is transmitted through bat-to-bat contact or infected environment-to-bat contact. Humans can also disseminate the fungus into new areas by using infected clothing and climbing gear and transferring it to a new cave, mine or roost.

White nose syndrome was discovered within Michigan’s borders in April 2014. It was found in three counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac. Five little brown bats were collected in February and March that showed signs of the disease. White nose syndrome was diagnosed in the bats by Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, in cooperation with the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory. Continue reading

Advertisements