For Immediate Release
Rick Reynolds, VDGIF, 540-248-9386
Julie Buchanan, DCR, 804-786-2292
NOTE: This news release was distributed on 3/29/2012. The information below may no longer be the most up-to-date information available, or may pertain solely to events that occurred in the past. Please contact the person listed as the contact person for this release for the most current information.
White-Nose Syndrome Continues to Decimate Bat Population in Virginia
Another winter has come and gone and the negative impact of white-nose syndrome (WNS) on Virginia bat populations continues. While few surveys of hibernating bats were conducted this past year in order to minimize disturbance to already declining bat populations, new evidence of the spread of WNS was documented. Scott County was added to our list of WNS confirmed counties and additional WNS positive caves were added to counties already known to house the deadly disease. It now appears that Lee County is the only county in the mountain region of the state where WNS has not been documented. Because the WNS fungal spores are typically not present during the warm seasons Virginia has few records of bats with WNS symptoms outside the mountain region. Of the eight species of bats that hibernate in Virginia, only the Virginia big-eared bat has not been confirmed to contract the WNS disease.
Other research in Virginia designed to understand the spread of WNS has confirmed the continued decline of the two most common cave hibernating bat species, the little brown bat and tri-colored bat. Virginia is assisting the USGS National Wildlife Health Center with a study to look at the persistence of WNS fungal spores in caves and mines in the eastern United States. As part of this effort bat counts were conducted at the survey sites, documenting the continued declines in little brown and tri-colored bats. At these sites little brown bats declined from a combined high of just over 5,000 individuals in 2009 to 1,266 in 2011, to just 125 individuals in 2012, a decline of over 95% in four years. Tri-colored bats showed a similar decline from a high of 388 individuals in 2009 to 42 in 2012, a decline of almost 90%.
How to Safely Remove Bats from the Home
Both little brown and tri-colored bats are known to roost in human dwellings during the warm months of spring, summer, and early autumn. While the declines in these two species should mean fewer encounters with humans it also emphasizes the importance of the summer roosts for these species. Most people recognize the importance of bats as major nighttime insect eaters, and farmers are keenly aware of their critical importance to our food supply, but rarely does one want to share their home with a colony of bats. Luckily there is a win/win approach to excluding bats from human dwellings. Web sites such as Bat Conservation International (batcon.org), Bat Conservation and Management (batmanagement.com), and the Organization for bat Conservation (batconservation.org) are a few of the groups that provide both a "how to do it yourself" approach as well as links to certified professionals who can help you exclude bats from human dwellings in a bat friendly manner.
There are many state and federal agencies, universities, and non-government organizations working hard to understand and negate the impacts of WNS. As an individual you can educate yourself on the issues surrounding WNS at the web links listed below. If you have bats residing in a dwelling on your property and you need to exclude them, you can help these summer residents by following the guidance in the web sites mentioned above. We may not know what the final outcome will be when the "spore-laden dust" from WNS finally settles, but we can do our part to help promote the individuals that survive and show a resistance to this disease.