White Nose Syndrome spreads in WV bats
March 12, 2012 ·
West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources spent another winter monitoring White Nose Syndrome in bats and found the disease spread to four more counties this year.
The presence of the disease was confirmed in West
Virginia about three years ago. Since then
Division of Natural Resources Biologist Craig Stihler has been tracking its
This winter the DNR surveyed four caves in Tucker, Pendleton, Randolph and Monroe counties to
determine whether the disease is present.
Stihler said the two species
most affected are the Little Brown Bat and the Tri-colored, which was formerly called
“These are widespread bats,
very common in our caves in the wintertime. They’re being hit very hard,”
Stihler said. “In caves where we’ve had White Nose for two winters we’re seeing
93 percent decline of those two species, so in two years we’re losing 93 percent
of those bats.”
But there is good news. Stihler
said the endangered Indiana Bat has not been hit as hard and the rarest bat in
the region, the Virginia Big-eared, doesn’t seem to be affected by the disease.
“We have Big-eared Bats in
caves in the winter time and we have summer maternity colonies where the
females gather to raise their young in caves,” Stihler said. “And we track both
winter and summer populations and this past summer we had the highest count on
record for those colonies.”
Stihler said if scientists
can figure out why the Big-eared Bat doesn’t catch White Nose Syndrome it might
provide clues for helping the other species.
White Nose Syndrome gets its
name because the main symptom is a white fungus that grows on the bats’ faces.
Stihler said the DNR is working with several universities that are
conducting studies on the disease.
White Nose Syndrome was
first discovered in the United States in New York State
in 2006 and Stihler said some bats in that state are now surviving the disease,
showing less severe symptoms and reproducing.
“So I think the hope for West Virginia bats is that we’re going to have individuals
survive,” he said. “They might be resistant to the fungus; they might just be
extremely robust individuals that can handle the stress. But we’re hoping that
we see bats surviving White Nose.”
disease has been found as far west as the Fayette Kanawha County line and as far south as Mercer County.
Click on the link to hear an
interview with Stihler.