Bat white nose syndrome case being investigated

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Disease has killed more than 6 million bats in eastern North America

Anyone who has seen a bat this winter is asked to call the Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division at (902) 368-4683 or the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, AVC, at (902) 628-4314.   

This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows a small cluster of hibernating little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) each showing different stages of white-nose syndrome, a disease now rapidly spreading.

Fish and Wildlife officials are asking the public to report any winter sightings of live or dead bats after the recent discovery of a northern long-eared bat in Prince Edward Island.  

“To our knowledge, bats do not normally overwinter in Prince Edward Island in any numbers so it may have been blown here from Nova Scotia or New Brunswick in a winter storm,” said Rosemary Curley, biologist with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. “We are working with staff at the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre of the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) to determine if this is the first reported case of bat white nose syndrome. Given the social nature and migratory patterns of bats, as well as the large scale bat mortalities occurring on the mainland, it was just a matter of time before this fungus arrived on the Island.”

Preliminary findings indicate the bat was likely suffering from white nose syndrome, a fatal fungal infection that has been decimating bat populations across much of eastern North America. The fungus causes bats to wake up frequently during hibernation which requires them to use more energy from their vital fat stores which normally helps them to survive the winter months.

Once these fat stores are depleted, the bat emerges to look for more food. However,  their typical insect prey is not available at this time of year, so they die from starvation and hypothermia.

Over the last several years, it is estimated that more than six million bats in eastern North America have been killed by this disease which continues to spread into new regions.

Unfortunately there is little that can be done to protect bats from this often fatal infection.

"This is bad news because of the crucial roles they play in our environment and economy," states a news release from Fish and Wildlife. "Every night during spring and summer, a single bat will eat hundreds of flying insects such as mosquitos and other agricultural pests."

While white nose syndrome is not known to be harmful to humans, people should not touch or handle any animal that is behaving in an abnormal manner. There are no treatments or effective control methods for this fungus. The best way is to prevent disturbances to hibernating bats and to preserve their summer roosting sites.

Fish and Wildlife officials are interested in information regarding any winter sightings of live or dead bats. This may help to determine if bats are over wintering on Prince Edward Island so that further studies can be undertaken.

Organizations: Atlantic Veterinary College, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre

Geographic location: North America, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • wayne kennedy
    February 11, 2013 - 20:58

    The most commonly used herbicide is said to "promote" the growth of fungus. Charlottetown has a moldy air situation [ Google toxic mold syndrome] suggest crop dusting on wet days?

  • Captain Canuck
    February 10, 2013 - 10:14

    In this case, XCOMA, it is not a matter of keeping bat species' from extinction, but we need the millions of each species because of their importance in the ecosystem. They're as important as the wolf, shark, bear and worm... arguably these are five of the 20 most important groups of creatures on the planet.

  • XComa
    February 10, 2013 - 07:57

    Is there really nothing we can do?.., I know we are talking Millions of Bats, but can we not protect thousands. Maybe Built a Habitat, volunteers medium-long term treatment, I don't know, something... Bats eat a fair amount of Mosquitoes. A bit of a jump, but still a concern. Mosquitoes are known to carry many infectious diseases from several different classes of microorganisms, including viruses and parasites.... "...Worldwide, Malaria is a leading cause of premature mortality..."