Are America’s Bats in Peril?

A fungus of unknown origin is decimating bat populations, and threatens the already endangered Indiana bat.  This malady, called “white-nose syndrome” (WNS), has already killed hundreds of thousands of cave-dwelling bats in the northeastern states since 2006 and appears to be moving toward Midwestern and southeastern states, including Indiana.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “WNS is identified by fungal growths on the bat’s nose, arms and wings, and abnormal behavior such as leaving the hibernaculum [cave] in the winter, flying during daylight hours, reduced energy reserves and mortality.”  Other bats dying from the disease are the little brown, Northern long-eared, and Eastern pipistrelle.

As a precautionary measure, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Hoosier National Forest have closed caves under their control.  The DNR is also working with private cave owners to encourage their closure.  The WNS fungus is not harmful to humans, but may be spread to new caves by recreational users.

While bats are sometimes portrayed as harmful or undesirable animals, they are actually vitally-important components of our native ecosystems and help control insect populations.

Find out more about “white nose syndrome” on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

In May of 2009, all caves on state properties were closed to the public to protect from spreading the syndrome.