For Immediate Release, June 15, 2010
Contact: Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office); (802) 318-1487 (cell)
Deadly White-nose Syndrome Jumps to Ninth Bat Species
RICHMOND, Vt.— A fast-moving disease that’s deadly to bats has been discovered in a new bat species, the southeastern myotis. This is the ninth species of bat to be confirmed with the malady known as white-nose syndrome. Officials with Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have reported that an infected bat was found at Pocahontas State Park in early May. The bat appeared to be ill and died soon after capture. Laboratory tests later confirmed that the bat harbored the fungus Geomyces destructans, which scientists believe is the causative agent of white-nose syndrome.
“The southeastern myotis is the latest, but probably not the last, bat species to be afflicted by white-nose syndrome,” said Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Already, the disease has hit one-fifth of all bat species in North America, and it is showing absolutely no sign of slowing its deadly pace.”
The Center is calling on the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior to immediately appoint a full-time, high-level white-nose syndrome director, submit a federal budget request to fund desperately needed research on the disease, and complete the national white-nose syndrome plan, which has been in development for almost a year. The group, along with numerous conservation allies and prominent bat scientists, has also asked Congress to provide $5 million for syndrome work in 2011.
White-nose syndrome is believed to have killed more than one million bats in the four years it has swept across the United States, originating in upstate New York. Bats from New Hampshire to Oklahoma have been hit by the disease, and white-nose was also discovered earlier this year in multiple locations in Ontario and Quebec. With mortality rates in some affected species reaching as high as 100 percent, scientists fear that one or more bat species will be extinct in a few years’ time.
“It is abundantly clear that bats across North America, and possibly beyond, are in serious danger,” said Matteson. “The only hope for North America’s bats is for our federal agencies to get out of first gear and get moving, before these crucial insect-eaters disappear. Only swift, decisive action is going to stop the spread of white-nose syndrome and allow a cure to be found.”
White-nose syndrome has now been found in 14 states and the following species: little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat, northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat, big brown bat, and federally listed endangered Indiana bat, as well as, earlier this year, the federally endangered gray bat and cave myotis. Bat populations in states affected the longest, such as New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, have plunged dramatically.
Bats eat tons of insects every night, and scientists fear that if the bats disappear, insect populations will soar. By curbing insect numbers, bats provide free, non-toxic pest control, including for farmers who might otherwise turn to more chemical pesticides.