Over the past four years, more than a million bats have died in the eastern U.S. from white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus that is making its way across the country and is also threatening bat populations in Canada.
White-nose syndrome, identified by a white fungus, Geomyces destructans, on the faces and wings of affected bats, was first documented in New York in 2006. Since then, it has made its way to New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. Last spring, it showed up in Oklahoma and now it’s in Indiana.
It’s believed that the fungus, which thrives in the cold, has multiple physiological effects on bats and disrupts hibernation, causing bats to wake up more and use the fat reserves they need to survive through the winter. Some bats leave hibernation too soon and either freeze or starve to death.
White-nose syndrome has been killing tri-colored, little brown, northern long-eared, big brown, small-footed and Indiana bats, which are listed as an endangered species. Scientists believe the disease is being spread between bats, but also strongly believe that it is being spread by humans who visit caves.
In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition asking for the closure of caves in the lower 48 states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Forest Service have closed caves and mines in eastern and southern national forests and in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and part of South Dakota.
Recreational use of caves on national wildlife refuges has also been banned, along with some areas in New Mexico.
However, there are still open dwellings in the Southwest, Intermountain West, Montana, Idaho, Pacific Northwest and California leaving 23 species of hybernating bats vulnerable.
Some agencies want to wait to take further action when white-nose syndrome appears in the area.
Please send a message to our federal agencies asking them to continue with their efforts to stop the spread of white-nose syndrome and close bat caves immediately, before it spreads, not after.