BAT CRISIS: WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME
A fast-moving disease is killing bats across many parts of North America, and we need your help to stop it.
White-nose syndrome has killed an estimated 6.7 million bats since it was first discovered in the United States in 2006. Biologists consider it the worst wildlife disease outbreak ever in North America. It not only threatens to drive some bat species extinct but could also have an enormous effect on the billions of dollars in pest-killing services that bats provide each year in this country.
In just a few years, the disease has spread to 19 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has been found on bats in two other states, Oklahoma and Iowa. Seven species have proven susceptible to the disease, thus far. Biologists fear it could soon spread from coast to coast, wiping out entire bat colonies and pushing some species to extinction.
But it’s not too late. The Center for Biological Diversity has filed several petitions to save bats and protect the places they live. We need your help to:
- pressure Congress to finally provide $10.8 million in research money to find the best ways to stop this disease;
- pass the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act; and
- persuade state and federal land managers to restrict all but the most essential human travel into caves and abandoned mines, especially those in the West, where the disease has yet to gain a foothold.
One-fifth of all mammal species are bats, which provide vital services in the places they live. Among the most important is controlling insects. A single bat can eat thousands of insects in one night, which benefits people, agriculture and forestry. A recent study found that the value of bats’ pest-control services in the United States ranges from $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year.
Unfortunately white-nose syndrome threatens to vastly reduce the number of bats in North America. Mortality has reached 100 percent in some caves affected by white-nose syndrome, and often the disease kills 70 percent to 90 percent of bats in a colony.
Of particular concern are those bats already on the endangered species list: the Indiana bat and the gray bat. Even the little brown bat, once one of the most common bats in North America, could be in trouble. A study of the little brown bat projected the species would be essentially extinct in the Northeast by 2026.
Although its exact origins are unclear, there’s strong evidence that white-nose syndrome was originally transported from Europe, where the fungus exists but does not kill bats. White-nose syndrome was first discovered in North America in a cave complex frequently visited by people in upstate New York in February 2006. Bats don't naturally travel between Europe and North America, and the most parsimonious explanation for the appearance of the bat-killing fungus is that it was transported on gear, clothing or footwear of a cave visitor, travelling between continents.
The Center has already taken crucial steps to stem the spread of this deadly disease, most recently filing a lawsuit against the northern region of the Forest Service for withholding documents about cave closures and other measures in Idaho and Montana that could reduce risk of transmission. We've also filed a petition in January 2010 to limit human access to caves on federal lands across the lower 48 states, requested that the government review the little brown bat’s status in light of the disease (accompanied by an independent scientific assessment of the species’ status), filed a notice of intent to sue federal land-management agencies for failing to respond to our petition for cave closures, sent a coalition letter to Congress requesting $10.8 million in funding to research and fight white-nose syndrome and filed a suit against the BLM for allowing cavers to enter Colorado caves harboring at-risk bats. Regarding specific species, we've petitioned to protect the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats as endangered under the Endangered Species Act — and the Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering doing that.
It’s vital that we curtail the spread of this disease, dramatically ramp up research, and take every step possible to save millions more bats from death. We need your help. You can start today — join the Center's Save Our Bats campaign by signing in at the top of this page, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, like our Facebook page and share it with friends and family.
The Lives of Bats
The Economic Value of Bats
Our Campaign to Save Bats