TWRA Confirms First Cases of White Nose Syndrome in Tennessee Bats

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has confirmed that two pips
from Worley’s Cave in Sullivan County, TN have tested positive for the
WNS-associated fungus. This is the first confirmation of WNS spreading
south into TN.

White nose syndrome i small bats

Source: http://news.tennesseeanytime.org/node/4596

TWRA Confirms First Cases of White Nose Syndrome in Tennessee Bats
Released on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 – 12:48 pm

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has
received confirmation that two bats have tested positive for White
Nose Syndrome (WNS), a white fungus that is responsible for the deaths
of thousands of bats in the Eastern United States.

This is the first record of White Nose Syndrome in Tennessee. The bats
were hibernating in Worley’s cave in Sullivan County. Three
tri-colored bats were collected by the TWRA and submitted to the
National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wis. for testing
last week.

Last spring the state of Tennessee, National Park Service, and USDA
Forest Service and Tennessee Valley Authority closed caves on public
lands in Tennessee in an attempt to slow the spread of the fungus. The
Nature Conservancy also closed caves located on their lands in
Tennessee.

Scientists are trying to determine the cause of WNS and its effects.
Once a colony is affected, the fungus spreads rapidly and has killed
at least 95 percent of bats at one New York hibernation site in two
years. Other northeastern U.S. monitored bat colonies affected by WNS
are experiencing similar large fatalities. There have been no reported
human illnesses attributed to WNS and there is currently no evidence
to suggest that WNS is harmful to humans or other organisms.

Preliminary research results recently released by the United States
Geological Survey indicates that the potential exists for WNS to be
transmitted between bat hibernation caves as an unwanted hitch-hiker
upon humans, their clothing, or other caving gear.

“Temporarily staying out of caves and mines is the one thing we can do
right now to slow the transmission of White Nose Syndrome,” said Cory
Holliday, Cave and Karst Manager for The Nature Conservancy in
Tennessee. “We knew the bat deaths in the Eastern United States were
large. Here in Tennessee we stand to lose the last stronghold of bats
like the endangered Indiana and grays. We have hundreds of thousands
of bats hibernating in our caves each winter. With a 95 percent
mortality rate the loss is catastrophic.”

Biologists are concerned that WNS could devastate populations of
endangered Indiana and gray bats. Bats play a key role in keeping
insects such as agricultural pests, mosquitoes and forest pests under
control.

“Bats provide a tremendous public service in terms of pest control,
said Richard Kirk, Nongame and Endangered Species Coordinator for the
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. If we lose 500,000 bats, we’ll
lose the benefits from that service and millions of pounds of insects
will still be flying around our neighborhoods, agricultural fields and
forests.”

The disease causes bats to use up their fat reserves rapidly during
hibernation. This causes the bats to fly out of caves during the
winter in a desperate attempt to find food, but since the insects they
eat are also seasonally dormant, the bats soon die of starvation.

State and federal agency biologists and non-governmental organizations
are currently surveying caves in east Tennessee and other portions of
the state. These surveys are being conducted as annual bat population
surveys and to monitor for WNS.

Links to more information -http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html

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