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 and quickly becoming an ecological disaster.
White-nose syndrome (WNS), 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 18 states and four Canadian provinces killing tri-colored, little brown, northern long-eared, big brown, small-footed and Indiana bats, which are listed as an endangered species.
Meanwhile, scientists have been working hard to figure out why it’s affecting bats here, and more importantly, how to stop it. Scientists believe the disease is being spread between bats, but also strongly believe that it is being spread by humans who visit caves.
“The loss of bats from WNS will have severe implications for our economy and our environment. Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects, including expensive agricultural pests that damage corn, soybean, cotton and other crops. By consuming these insects, bats reduce the need for chemical pesticides and lower food-production costs, saving U.S. farmers $3.7 to $53 billion a year,” according to Bat Conservation International.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are asking members of the House of Representatives and Senate to join them on letters to Interior Appropriations Subcommittee leadership in support of providing much-needed funds to combat WNS.
Send a letter to your representatives by Monday May 16, asking them to sign these letters.
The Forest Service is also accepting public comments on cave restrictions in the Northern Region, which includes North Dakota, Montana, north Idaho, and northwest South Dakota until May 28. You can email the FS to submit your comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bureau of Land Management is also accepting comments about the proposed closure of caves and abandoned mines in Colorado, where WNS has not yet been found until June 3. You can submit your comment in writing to:
Bureau of Land Management,
Colorado River Valley Field Office
ATTN: Brian Hopkins
2300 River Frontage Rd.
Silt, CO 81652
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsnortheast/Marvin Moriarty/USFWS