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Not good news.  Birders should be aware of this, as we are in areas  
where we might encounter bats.

Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
[log in to unmask]

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Joe Jerek <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: April 19, 2010 8:38:03 AM CDT
> To: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: [Mdcnews] MDC MEdia Release: Signs of WNS Found in MO
>
> MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
>
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 19, 2010
>
> CONTACT:       Joe Jerek -- 573-522-4115 x3362 or [log in to unmask]
>                         Jim Low -- 573-522-4115 x3243 or  
> [log in to unmask]
>
>
> MDC monitoring new bat disease in Missouri
>
> JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC)  
> recently confirmed Missouri’s first signs of a new disease in bats  
> that scientists have named “White-Nose Syndrome” (WNS). The name  
> describes a white fungus, Geomyces destructans, typically found on  
> the faces and wings of infected bats.
>
> “The WNS fungus appears to spread mainly through bat-to-bat contact  
> and has not been found to infect humans or other animals,”  
> explained MDC Cave Biologist Bill Elliott. “It thrives in the cool,  
> damp conditions found in many caves, which are also ideal  
> hibernation and roosting sites for many bat species.”
>
> He said that the scientific community is still learning about WNS,  
> which was first discovered in a cave in New York state in 2006.  
> Elliott and other MDC scientists have been tracking the westward  
> progression of the disease since its discovery. Laboratory tests  
> recently confirmed the presence of the WNS fungus on a bat found in  
> a cave in Pike County.
>
> The disease causes infected bats to awaken more often during their  
> winter hibernation and fly outside in search of insects to eat.  
> This activity uses up stored fat reserves needed to get them  
> through the winter, and they usually freeze or starve to death.
>
> According to Bat Conservation International (BCI), a leading  
> authority on bat conservation, education and research, WNS has  
> killed more than a million bats in 11 states and Canada.
>
> Elliott noted that the MDC has a WNS action plan in place that  
> focuses on MDC lands. The Department is working with other state  
> and federal agencies, conservation groups and private cave owners,  
> including owners of Missouri show caves, to develop a Missouri-wide  
> WNS action plan to address the threat of WNS to the state’s  
> valuable bat populations.
>
> “There are more than 6,300 caves in Missouri with 74 percent of  
> them privately owned,” Elliott said. “More than 500 are known to  
> house bat colonies, but that number may be as high as 5,000.”
>
> He added that the state’s numerous show caves are great places for  
> people to discover nature by learning about the value of bats and  
> the unique ecosystems of cave environments.
>
> “Missouri is home to at least 12 species of bats,” Elliott  
> explained. “They are our front-line defense against many insect  
> pests including some moths, certain beetles and mosquitoes. Insect  
> pests can cause extensive forest and agricultural damage.  
> Missouri’s 775,000 gray bats alone eat more than 223 billion bugs a  
> year, or about 540 tons.”
>
> BCI information states that the more than one million bats killed  
> by WNS would have consumed just under 700,000 tons of insects each  
> year. That equals the weight of about 175,000 elephants.
>
> Elliott added that bats are long-lived but slow-reproducing animals  
> with most species having an average lifespan of about 15 years and  
> giving birth usually to only one pup each year.
>
> “They also play a vital role in cave ecosystems, providing  
> nutrients for other cave life through their droppings, or guano,  
> and are food for other animals such as snakes and owls,” he said.
> “Disturbing bats in caves while they roost or hibernate could  
> increase their stress and weaken their health.”
>
> As a longstanding policy to help protect bats and the fragile and  
> unique ecosystems found in caves, MDC restricts access to many of  
> its caves. Access to MDC caves is permitted only if there is a  
> “CAVE OPEN” sign posted at the entrance, or if a person has a  
> special MDC permit for research, recreation or education purposes.
>
> Elliott cautioned that people should not handle any bats, and  
> contact MDC if they find dead bats with white, fuzzy fungal growth.
>
> For more information, visit MissouriConservation.org and search  
> “White-Nose Syndrome.”
>
> - Joe Jerek -
>
>
> GET PHOTO OF BAT WITH WNS AT:  mdc.mo.gov/news/images/fullsize/ 
> 20100416-2.jpg
>
> PHOTOCAPTION: This little brown bat shows symptoms of White-Nose  
> Syndrome. The disease has been named for the white fungus, Geomyces  
> destructans, typically found on the faces and wings of infected  
> bats. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
>
>
>
>
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