February 01, 2010
WATERBURY, VT -- The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is once again advising people who live near caves and mines to expect unusual levels of bat activity as a result of the White Nose Syndrome (WNS) that is afflicting hibernating bats. Department officials say reports of sick bats have been coming in most recently from residents in Johnson, Vermont.
“Although reports are concentrated around Johnson at this time, we are also receiving scattered reports from other sections of the state,” said Fish and Wildlife Specialist Ryan Smith. “Unfortunately, WNS has continued to spread north, and we expect to receive more reports of abnormal bat activity from the northern half of the state. Last winter reports were concentrated in southern Vermont, but bat populations there have been devastated over the past two winters.”
“One of the symptoms of White Nose Syndrome is that bats afflicted with the disease fly out of a cave and try to survive in the cold landscape. This is most evident on the warmer days during the winter,” said State Wildlife Biologist Scott Darling. “As a result, people living near some caves or mines are seeing increasing activity and mortality of these animals. Some are finding dead bats on their porches or window screens, observing bats flying during the day, or having bats enter their houses.”
“Due to the potential for exposure to rabies, people with dead or dying bats on their property should not handle the animals unless necessary, and parents should advise children not to pick up any bats,” said Darling. “All bats should be handled with gloves or tools.”
The department continues to collaborate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several other state fish and wildlife agencies to monitor the spread of White Nose Syndrome and to determine the cause of the affliction.
The syndrome, named after the fungus that can appear on a bat’s muzzle, has now spread from New York and Vermont south to Virginia and West Virginia, affecting bats in nine states.
A cold loving fungus Geomyces destructans has been cultured from the affected bats. The fungus is believed to be the most likely cause of the abnormal mortality associated with WNS. However, it has not yet been determined whether the fungus is the cause of the mass mortalities in bats, or if it is a symptom resulting from other factors.
The department is asking for citizen reports of sightings of dead or dying bats, as well as unusual observations of bats flying in the daytime. People are asked to report their observations on-line by visiting the department’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) and clicking on the Sick-acting Bat Citizen Report Form. You also can call 802-786-0055.
“People should not try to rehabilitate sick bats they find,” said Darling. “The bats leaving the caves and mines are extremely emaciated and would require intensive rehabilitation by a licensed expert to survive. We are also concerned about people moving sick bats around the state, potentially exposing healthy bats to the fungus. Instead, it is best to let nature take its course and focus citizen efforts on reporting bats as they are observed.”
“The people of Vermont continue to be very helpful to our investigations into the spread and causes of White Nose Syndrome,” says Darling. “The support that Vermonters have shown for our work in trying to solve this disease crisis has been a great motivation for us.”
Source: Department of Fish and Wildlife
Last Updated at: February 01, 2010 10:41:11