Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
White nose syndrome is a poorly understood malady associated with the deaths of more than a million bats. The condition, named for a distinctive ring of fungal growth around the muzzles and on the wings of many affected animals, was first identified in a cave in New York in February 2006. It spread to other New York caves and into Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut in 2008. In early 2009 it was confirmed in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and in March 2010 in Ontario, Canada, and northern Tennessee.
Alan Hicks with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has described the impact as "unprecedented" and "the gravest threat to bats ... ever seen." The mortality rate in some caves has exceeded 90 percent. At greatest risk is the endangered Indiana bat, whose primary hibernaculum in New York has been affected. Deaths of eastern pipistrelles, northern long-eared myotis and little brown bats have also been attributed to the condition. The long-term impact of the reduction in bat populations may be an increase in insects, possibly even leading to crop damage or other economic impact in New England. As of May 2009, bat colonies have been decimated in at least seven states, with an estimated half a million bats having died from the disease.