Disease kills 6 million bats in North America

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
January 18, 2012



In just six years around six million bats have succumbed to white-nose syndrome in North America, according to U.S. federal researchers. The number, somewhere between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats, is far higher than past estimates of over a million. Showing up in 2006 in New York, the perplexing disease, which appears as white dust on bats' muzzles, wipes out populations while they hibernate.

"This startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that white nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem facing our nation. Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people," said US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) director Dan Ashe in a statement.

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome in Greeley Mine, Vermont, March 26, 2009. Photo by: Marvin Moriarty/USFWS.
Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome in Greeley Mine, Vermont, March 26, 2009. Photo by: Marvin Moriarty/USFWS.
A recent study in Science found that by eating billions of insects bats were worth billions of dullars to agriculture in the U.S.: likely between $3.7 to $53 billion a year. To date the disease has been found in 16 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces

Bat mortalities may be even worse than reported. USFWS's white nose coordinator, Jeremy Coleman, called the startling figures "conservative."

White-nosed syndrome is caused by the aptly named fungus, Geomyces destructans. The diesaes, which is likely passed from individual to individual by touch, leads bats to starve to death during hibernation.

"This number confirms what people working on white-nose syndrome have known for a long time—that bats are dying in frighteningly huge numbers and several species are hurtling toward the black hole of extinction," said Mollie Matteson with the conservation NGO Center for Biological Diversity. "We have to move fast if we’re going to avoid a complete catastrophe for America’s bats."













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (January 18, 2012).

Disease kills 6 million bats in North America.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0118-hance_bats_wns.html