Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 16, 2015

Contact: Mollie Matteson, (802) 318-1487 or

Fatal White-nose Syndrome Spreads to Iowa Bats

26 States Now Afflicted by Epidemic Threatening Multiple Bat Species

DES MOINES, Iowa— State wildlife officials announced today that the incurable fungal disease that has killed millions of bats across the eastern United States has been confirmed in Iowa bats. White-nose syndrome was found on three bats near a cave entrance in Des Moines County (two little brown bats and one northern long-eared) and on four little brown bats collected in Van Buren County this winter, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Biologists first detected the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in an Iowa cave in 2011, but did not find afflicted bats until this winter.

“The fact that white-nose has now spread to bats in more than half our states should be a wake-up call to federal regulators,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our bats are running out of places to live. Whether or not industry wants these bats protected, we need to get it done. These creatures are vital to pest control and to the food web more broadly. We need to be doing everything we can to save them from extinction — from the dangers of this disease itself and also from other threats that add serious insult to injury, like cutting down the very same forests they depend on to survive.”

White-nose syndrome has resulted in dramatic declines among several bat species, including the northern long-eared bat, little brown bat, tricolored bat and Indiana bat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently listed the northern long-eared bat as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act; the Indiana bat was federally protected as “endangered” prior to the onset of the bat disease. Populations of the northern long-eared bat have plummeted by as much as 99 percent across its core range in the eastern United States; it was the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act due to the devastating effects of white-nose syndrome.

Despite the ongoing spread of the fatal disease, the protection of white-nose affected bats has been a highly contentious issue. Industries such as timber, oil and gas, mining and wind energy opposed the listing of the northern long-eared bat, leading to the Fish and Wildlife Service backing off its original recommendation that the species be protected as endangered. Instead, on April 2, the Service listed the northern long-eared bat under the weaker “threatened” category and added a rule allowing forestry activities that typically would be prohibited under the Endangered Species Act. Outside the area currently affected by white-nose syndrome, all activities potentially affecting the northern long-eared bat (except direct, intentional take) are exempted from the restrictions of the Act.

White-nose syndrome has been called the worst wildlife health crisis in recent memory, and has caused mortality rates ranging up to 100 percent among bats in affected caves. There is no known cure for the disease, which has afflicted seven bat species so far and has pushed several of them to the brink of regional extinction. Many leading bat biologists have emphasized precautionary measures, such as closures and site-specific caving gear requirements, as the best management response.

Scientists have estimated the economic value of insect-eating bats to American agriculture at $22 billion annually. Bats also eat tons of insects harmful to forests, and their guano is essential to the survival of extremely rare cave organisms like cave salamanders and fish.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back