Spring bat reports can help monitor spread of deadly disease

For Immediate Release –
Spring bat reports can help monitor spread of deadly disease
Date: March 6, 2018
Reporting dead bats may help save the lives of our BC bats. The BC Community Bat Program, in collaboration with the Province of BC, is asking the public to report any dead bats in an effort to determine the distribution of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is a fungal disease harmless to humans but responsible for the deaths of millions of insect-eating bats in North America. WNS was first detected in Washington State in March 2016.
To monitor the spread of this disease, Community Bat Program coordinators have been collecting reports of unusual winter bat activity across southern BC and ensuring that dead bats are sent to the Canadian Wildlife Health Centre lab for disease testing. Information gained from dead bats and reports of live bats can help determine the extent of the disease, and determine priorities for conservation efforts. Fortunately, no WNS has been reported in the province to-date.
Spring conditions now mean increased bat activity – and an increased chance of detecting the disease. As bats begin to leave hibernacula and return to their summering grounds, our chances of seeing live or dead bats increases, and the Community Bat Program is continuing to ask for assistance. “We are asking the public to report dead bats or any sightings of daytime bat activity to the Community Bat Project as soon as possible (1-855-922-2287 ext 24 or info@bcbats.ca)” says Mandy Kellner, coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program.
Never touch a bat with your bare hands as bats can carry rabies, a deadly disease. Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with a bat, immediately contact your physician and/or local public health authority or consult with your private veterinarian.
Currently there are no treatments for White Nose Syndrome. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations with the resilience to rebound. This is where the BC Community Bat Program and the general public can help. Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Province of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the BC Community Bat Program works with the government and others on public outreach activities, public reports of roosting bats in buildings, and our citizen-science bat monitoring program.
To contact the BC Community Bat Program, visit http://www.bcbats.ca, email info@bcbats.ca or call 1-855-922-2287 ext. 24.

Contact: Mandy Kellner, Provincial Coordinator, BC Community Bat Program
250-837-1376, info@bcbats.ca

A biologist inspect hibernating bats for signs of WNS.
photo credit: C.Lausen, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada/ BatCaver Program

A little brown bat with visible symptoms of fungal growth typical of White-Nose Syndrome.
Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

Hibernating bats remain free from WNS.
Photo credit: C. Lausen, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada/ BatCaver Program

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unveils plan to fight white-nose syndrome in bats

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday released a national plan to enhance collaboration among the states, federal agencies and tribes trying to manage a rapidly spreading disease that has killed more than 1 million hibernating bats since it was discovered in New York in 2007.

Over the last five years, white-nose syndrome, which was named for the presence of a white fungus around the muzzles, ears and wings of affected bats, has spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces. Bat colony losses at the most closely monitored sites have reached 95% within three years of initial detection.

A recent study published in Science magazine showed that pest-control services provided by bats save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3.7 billion a year.

The service considered about 17,000 comments received on the draft plan made available to the public in October.

The 17-page plan recommends decontamination protocols to reduce transmission of the fungus by humans, surveillance strategies and diagnostic procedures designed to ensure that white-nose syndrome testing results are accurate and comparable between laboratories.

“We’ve learned a lot in the past few years about the disease, but there is much more work to be done to contain it,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a prepared statement. “This national plan provides a road map for federal, state and tribal agencies and scientific researchers to follow and will facilitate sharing of resources and information to more efficiently address the threat.”

– Louis Sahagun