For Immediate Release
(802) 434-2388 (office)
Deadly White-nose Syndrome Jumps to Ninth Bat Species
RICHMOND, VT - A fast-moving disease that’s deadly to bats has been discovered in a
new bat species, the southeastern myotis. This is the ninth species of
bat to be confirmed with the malady known as white-nose syndrome. Officials with Virginia's
Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have reported that an infected
bat was found at Pocahontas State Park in early May. The bat appeared
to be ill and died soon after capture. Laboratory tests later confirmed
that the bat harbored the fungus Geomyces destructans, which
scientists believe is the causative agent of white-nose syndrome.
“The southeastern myotis is the latest, but probably
not the last, bat species to be afflicted by white-nose syndrome,” said
Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate with the Center for
Biological Diversity. “Already, the disease has hit one-fifth of all
bat species in North America, and it is showing absolutely no sign of
slowing its deadly pace.”
The Center is calling on the leadership of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior to
immediately appoint a full-time, high-level white-nose syndrome
director, submit a federal budget request to fund desperately needed
research on the disease, and complete the national white-nose syndrome
plan, which has been in development for almost a year. The group, along
with numerous conservation allies and prominent bat scientists, has
also asked Congress to provide $5 million for syndrome work in 2011.
White-nose syndrome is believed to have killed more
than one million bats in the four years it has swept across the United
States, originating in upstate New York. Bats from New Hampshire to Oklahoma have been hit
by the disease, and white-nose was also discovered earlier this year in
multiple locations in Ontario and Quebec. With mortality rates in some
affected species reaching as high as 100 percent, scientists fear that
one or more bat species will be extinct in a few years’ time.
“It is abundantly clear that bats across North America,
and possibly beyond, are in serious danger,” said Matteson. “The only
hope for North America’s bats is for our federal agencies to get out of
first gear and get moving, before these crucial insect-eaters
disappear. Only swift, decisive action is going to stop the spread of
white-nose syndrome and allow a cure to be found.”
White-nose syndrome has now been found in
14 states and the following species: little brown bat, eastern
small-footed bat, northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat, big brown
bat, and federally listed endangered Indiana bat, as well as, earlier
this year, the federally endangered gray bat and cave myotis. Bat
populations in states affected the longest, such as New York, Vermont
and Massachusetts, have plunged dramatically.
Bats eat tons of insects every night, and scientists
fear that if the bats disappear, insect populations will soar. By
curbing insect numbers, bats provide free, non-toxic pest control,
including for farmers who might otherwise turn to more chemical
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