Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Devastating Bat-Killing Disease Spreads From Eastern U.S. to Midwest States

The devastating bat-killing disease that has already killed more than 7 million bats across the Eastern U.S. has spread to Wisconsin and Michigan, state wildlife officials announced this week. During routine surveys of bat hibernating areas late this winter, biologists discovered signs of the malady known as white-nose syndrome that was first documented in upstate New York in 2006. Subsequent lab testing confirmed the presence of the disease in the two upper Midwest states, bringing to 25 the total number of states where the disease is present. White-nose syndrome has also spread to five Canadian provinces.

The economic value of insect-eating bats to American agriculture is estimated at $22 billion annually.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

“White-nose syndrome has now reached the last strongholds of the once-abundant little brown bat and several other species,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Given the rapid spread and devastating consequences of this disease, it’s incredibly urgent that we put more resources into finding a cure and saving our bats.”

White-nose syndrome is the worst wildlife health crisis in recent memory, killing up to 100 percent of bats in affected caves. There is no known cure for the disease, which has afflicted seven bat species so far and has pushed several to the brink of regional extinction. Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection for the northern long-eared bat, one of the species hardest hit by the disease. The other bat species hit by the disease are the little brown bat, tricolored bat, eastern small-footed bat, federally endangered Indiana bat, federally endangered gray bat and the big brown bat.

Both Wisconsin and Michigan instituted white-nose syndrome response plans in 2010 to reduce the risk of human transmission of the fungus that causes the disease. Wisconsin, in particular, took aggressive action, declaring the disease-causing fungus an invasive species and prohibiting its transport into the state.

Leading bat biologists have repeatedly called for precautionary measures, such as cave closures and site-specific caving gear requirements, to slow the spread of the disease to new areas. Bats transmit the disease, but human transmission of the white-nose fungus, particularly over distances beyond the dispersal capacity of bats, is also a serious factor.

Wisconsin hosts several of the largest hibernating bat colonies in the upper Midwest—an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 bats live in the state. Although white-nose syndrome was discovered only in Wisconsin’s Grant County, in Michigan biologists documented the fungal disease in Alpina, Dickinson and Mackinac counties. Wildlife officials expect the disease will now spread in both states as it has elsewhere.

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, such as cave salamanders and fish.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Bats Dying in Unprecedented Numbers

Going to Bat for Our Furry Friends

--------

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less
Independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jeanette Cwienk

This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.

"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?

Read More Show Less
The CDC is warning that people with type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, whole organ transplants, and women who are pregnant could experience more severe outcomes if they contract COVID-19. LeoPatrizi / Getty Images
Read More Show Less

More than 200 Indigenous Nations demonstrated against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Canon Ball, ND on Sept. 2, 2016. Joe Brusky / Flickr

A federal judge ruled Monday that the controversial Dakota Access pipeline must be shut down and drained of oil until a full environmental review of the project is completed.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Yersinia pestis bacteria causes bubonic plague in animals and humans. Illustration based on light microscope image At 1000x. BSIP / UIG Via Getty Images

A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less