Lab Results Confirm White-nose Syndrome in West Virginia Bats

The U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Laboratory
in Madison, Wisconsin, has confirmed that bats from two Pendleton
County caves submitted for testing by Division of Natural Resources
wildlife biologists have the condition known as White-nose Syndrome
(WNS).  This condition has killed thousands of cave bats in the
Northeast, and the affected sites in West Virginia are currently
the southernmost sites where WNS has been observed.  

White-nose Syndrome is named for the white fungus which is often
observed on the muzzles, wings and ears of affected bats. Although
there may be several factors contributing to the condition known as
White-nose Syndrome, the invasion of skin cells by a specific
fungus is a consistent observation in all cases. The fungus, a
member of the genus Geomyces, was cultured from the West Virginia
bats. Genetic data indicate the fungus is identical to that
cultured for other WNS-positive bats. Microscopic examination of
the bats’ skin provided evidence that the fungi had invaded the
cells of the skin in all three species submitted:  little brown
bats, eastern pipistrelles, and northern long-eared bats. 

“This winter, DNR biologists have conducted bat surveys in
Grant, Hardy, Randolph and Tucker counties as well as Pendleton
County,” said DNR biologist Craig Stihler. “To date, WNS has only
been observed in Pendleton County. However, only a small number of
caves have been visited in each county.”

It seems likely that the most common way this condition is
spread is from bat to bat.  However, because the fungus associated
with WNS can live in cave soils, it may be possible for cavers to
spread WNS in cave dirt on their clothing and gear. DNR Wildlife
Resources biologists ask cavers to clean and disinfect all gear
between caving trips both within the state and between states.
Guidelines for disinfecting gear and additional information on
white-nose syndrome can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service Web site www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html. 
Cavers are also asked to avoid entering some of the most important
bat caves in the state to minimize the introduction to these sites.
A list of closed caves is available at www.VAR-caves.us.

“Scientists at several laboratories across the country are
looking for ways to fight WNS.  This research will take time,”
Stihler said. “Our best conservation strategy is to do whatever we
can to slow the spread of WNS until a better solution is
found.”

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