Up To 6.7 Million Bats Dead From White-Nose Syndrome

In 2006, scientists began to notice that a mysterious disease was decimating bat populations in upstate New York with unexpected speed and thoroughness. Now identified as ‘white-nose syndrome,’ bat biologists estimate that this fast-moving disease has now killed as many as 6.7 million bats in North America over the past six years.

White-nose syndrome refers to a white fungus that appears on the nose, wings, and other body parts of infected, hibernating bats.

The new estimate is dramatically higher than the previous one, dating from 2009, that white-nose syndrome had killed 1 million bats on the continent. The disease has spread from Nova Scotia to Tennessee, infecting bat colonies in 16 states and four provinces. In 2010, scientists predicted that unless a cure could be found, white-nose syndrome could completely wipe out brown bat populations within the next 16 years.

“This number confirms what people working on white-nose syndrome have known for a long time — that bats are dying in frighteningly huge numbers and several species are hurtling toward the black hole of extinction,” said Mollie Matteson with the Center for Biological Diversity, which has filed several petitions to save bats and stem the spread of the disease. “We have to move fast if we’re going to avoid a complete catastrophe for America’s bats.”

Bats are nocturnal creatures, emerging from caves and other dark recesses to hunt for insects only at night. Even though they may seem frightening to humans, extinction of the species is an even scarier prospect. The loss of so many bug-eating bats will undoubtedly have an impact on insect populations, including those that feed on human food crops.

Scientists have estimated that bats save farmers between $3.7 billion and $53 billion per year on pesticides by eating the insects that feed on crops like corn, cotton, vegetables and fruit. Since the bat disease has only shown up in the Midwest and South in the last couple of years, the full effects of declining bat numbers on regions more strongly dominated by agriculture than the Northeast may take some time to show up.

The outbreak is the worst wildlife disease epidemic in North America’s history. Congress recently directed the Department of the Interior to allot $4 million for research and management of the disease.

“America’s bats are in the throes of an unprecedented crisis and some species face the very real prospect of extinction,” Matteson said. “While it’s heartening to see some money allocated for white-nose syndrome, today’s new mortality estimates are a wake-up call that we need to do more, and fast.”

For more information on what you can do to help, please visit SaveOurBats.org.

 

Related Reading:

Speak Up For Bats!

Discovery Channel Teaches People How To Kill Bats

Stroke Treatment Being Developed From Vampire Bat Saliva

 

Image: Little brown bat; close-up of nose with fungus, New York, Oct. 2008. Credit: Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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274 comments

aj E.
aj E.3 years ago

nasty.

Samantha Richardson

I sincerely hope that they find a cure soon!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

not sure my messages are posting....

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

so sad.. i truly hope they find a cure/solution

Ann Fuller
Ann Fuller4 years ago

I am sure that lots of towns in Australia wouldn't mind sending some bats over to you in USA.

We have a population of 22,500 people in our small rural town but have also had 1,000's of bats for the last 10 years. Our local park has been taken over by them they have killed numerous trees and made others dangerous, it stinks just to drive pass. Our park was used for weddings/photos/picnics/children's birthday parties/travellers/Anzac Day Service/Christmas lights by Rotary/various churches had carol services. Now....NO weddings, bus companies have been told NOT to stop here, the CO of the Army base has said his men would NOT be taking part in any more services in the park (OH&S). Rotary changed the venue for the Christmas special 5 years ago although still had the lights in the big tree in the park until 2 years ago when the top had to be cut off as it was dead, so now no lights in the big tree. No church services. Occassionally the odd traveller pulls up at a picnic table. Once upon a time when we were on hols we use to check bats out in some places BUT when you have to live with them it's different. Have you ever had bat pup on your washing (just have to throw it out) or splashed all over your cement paths and walls of the house? All the dogs in the area barking through the night....you guessed it...at the bats. All because the minority have a louder voice. Sorry if you think this is political. As you can guess I am not a bat lover.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

This White-Nose Syndrome seems to be a scary disease. I am not a bat fan, but I don't want them wiped out by this disease. I wish them luck in finding a way to end this disease.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S.4 years ago

Poor, sweet bats. They eat nasty, disease-carrying insects for us!

Eilis N.
Eilis N.4 years ago

There was an interesting article in 'New Scientist' in December. Perhaps one of the reasons mammals and birds are warm-blooded is to protect us from fungal infections. Cold blooded reptiles and amphibians suffer greatly from fungal infections, we mammals don't as our body temperature is too high for most fungi. If you brew you will know that you mustn't add yeast to the wort until the temperature falls below about 32 degrees. Our body temperature is about 37 degrees, So we are fungus proof (perhaps significantly, our feet and genitals are a bit cooler). Bats become colder when they hibernate, making them vulnerable to fungi.

Eilis N.
Eilis N.4 years ago

there was an interesting article in New Scientist in December. Perhaps one of the reasons mammals and birds are warm-blooded is to protect us from fungal infections. Cold blooded reptiles and amphibians suffer greatly from fungal infections, we mammals don't as our body temperature is too high for most fungi. If you brew you will know that you mustn't add yeast to the wort until the temperature falls below about 32 degrees. Our body temperature is about 37 degrees, so we are fungus proof (perhaps significantly, our feet and genitals are a bit cooler). Bats become colder when they hibernate.

Rin S.
Rin S.4 years ago

Wow that's really scary. I've never heard of anything like that before.