This affliction has been given the name white–nose syndrome (WNS) because of the telltale white fungusgrowing on the noses of some infected bats while they hibernate. Only recently described as a new species, Geomyces destructans
may appear on the wings, ears and/or tail membranes of afflicted bats, but it may also be absent.
Infected bats may arouse from hibernation to attempt to deal with the fungal infection and in doing so prematurely burn up their fat stores and starve to death mid–winter. WNS has killed whole wintering populations of bats in the eastern U.S. as they hibernate in caves or mines.
Public Asked to Report Sightings
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking the public to report the sighting of any active or dead bats this winter. Please call 303-291-7771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because bats also can be affected by other health problems, including rabies, the CPW discourages members of the public from handling bats if at all possible.
“Information from the public could be critical to our effort this year” said Bob Davies, Wildlife Disease Manager.
CPW would also like to know of any sites, especially in eastern Colorado, that have hibernating bats so biologists can include them in the monitoring effort. Finally, the public is asked to not disturb hibernating bats and to respect cave closures.
White–nose syndrome is not well understood and scientists are investigating all potential aspects of this mysterious disease. One popular hypothesis focuses on the fungus itself, a cold–habitat obligate that thrives from 5 to 15 ºC (41 to 59 ºF) - the same range of temperatures typical of bat hibernacula. G. destructans infects hibernating bats as their bodies are cold and amenable to its growth. The earliest evidence of WNS was at a cave in New York in 2006. Since then, over a million bats have died.
Bats are an essential and beneficial part of the ecosystem. Bats play critical roles in insect control, plant pollination, seed dissemination, cave ecosystems, and provide food for other animals. Please read the Western Bat Working Group Brochure and WNS FAQs for more information.