Bat Fungus Spreads to the U.P.

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wns bat

Photo courtesy of Marvin Moriarty / USFWS

Marquette, Michigan  –  April 17, 2014  –  A week ago, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed the presence of White-nose Syndrome (WNS) in Upper Peninsula bats.

WNS is a fungus that’s been spreading across the United States for several years now causing illness and death in North American bats, including our own little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), the bats that keep the mosquito population in check around our neck of the woods. The infection causes a white fungal growth on the muzzle and wings of infected bats and also causes them to be active they should be hibernating resulting in emaciation and death.

“These are the first confirmed WNS cases in Michigan,” said Dr. Dan O’Brien, DNR wildlife veterinarian. “Even though we’ve known this disease was coming, it is a disappointing day.”

According to the Michigan DNR website, researchers from Eastern Michigan University collected five little brown bats during March and April showing disease characteristics during routine WNS surveillance. Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health diagnosed the bats with White-nose Syndrome. The diagnosis was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, where the bats tested positive for Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus responsible for White-nose Syndrome.

According to the Michigan DNR, who are looking for ways to slow or stop the spread of the fungus, there is no treatment yet and even if there was, there’s no practical way to treat millions of infected bats.

Sadly, much of our bat population may be wiped out due to this fungus and the DNR asks that people report bat die-offs to them through the observation report on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/wildlife or by calling the DNR at 517-336-5030.

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