The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today unveiled a national management plan to address the threat posed by
white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than a million hibernating bats in eastern North America since it was
discovered near Albany, New York in 2006.
"Having spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces, white-nose syndrome threatens far-reaching ecological and
economic impacts," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
A brown bat photographed in Wisconsin
The National Plan for Assisting States, Tribes and Federal Agencies in Managing White-Nose Syndrome in Bats provides a coordinated national management strategy for investigating the cause of the syndrome and finding a means to prevent the spread of the disease, which has not yet reached Minnesota or the upper Midwest. The service considered approximately 17,000 comments received on the draft plan made available to the public in October 2010.
Since the syndrome was first documented, the service has been leading a national response that now includes more
than 100 state and federal agencies, tribes, organizations and individuals.
Interior Department agencies have invested more than $10.8 million in this effort since 2007. This includes more than $3 million in research funding that is supporting ongoing research projects looking for methods to control or
cure the disease.
Researchers working with the U.S. Geological Survey have identified Geomyces destructans, a fungus new to science,
as the presumed causative agent.
In addition to research, the national response has also developed decontamination protocols to reduce the transmission of the fungus, surveillance strategies, and technical white-nose syndrome diagnostic procedures.
Bat populations are at risk in some areas of the country as a result of white-nose syndrome. Ecologists and natural
resource managers are concerned because of the critical role that bats play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and in
agricultural systems. A recent analysis published in Science magazine's Policy Forum showed that pest-control
services provided by insect-eating bats save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last year stepped up its summer bat monitoring program to target the two caves in the state with large bat populations -- Soudan Mine in northern Minnesota and Mystery Cave in
It hasn't been detected in the Upper Midwest, but the disease traveled more than 500 miles in about two years --
perhaps spread by bats but also possibly spread by humans who have visited caves.
Wildlife officials in Wisconsin have begun an aggressive bat survey to determine whether populations have been
affected by white nose syndrome yet. So far it hasn't been confirmed there.
Details on the national plan can be found at http://www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome.