January 18, 2012
Bat Death Toll From White-nose Syndrome Keeps Climbing
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Tuesday that the death toll for bats in North America that have suffered from White-nose Syndrome has exceeded 5.5 million.
Biologists and partners of the service estimated that at least 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have died from white-nose syndrome (WNS).
The syndrome was first documented in New York in 2006, and the disease quickly spread into 16 states and four Canadian provinces.
Bats with WNS have symptoms like flying around outside during the day, and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines.
The mortality rate of those bats suffering from WNS can reach up to 100 percent in some areas.
“This startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that white-nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem facing our nation," Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a press release. "Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people"
He said the Fish and Wildlife Service is working with partners to understand the spread of this deadly disease and minimize its impacts to affected bat species.
The service said it has been difficult for biologists to estimate the total number of bat deaths. It said establishing population counts of bat species has historically not been a primary focus.
“White-nose syndrome has spread quickly through bat populations in eastern North America, and has caused significant mortality in many colonies,” National WNS Coordinator, Dr. Jeremy Coleman, said in a press release. “Many bats were lost before we were able to establish pre-white-nose syndrome population estimates.”
Photo courtesy Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation
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