The waning days of winter are bringing grim news of the continuing spread of White-nose Syndrome – just as they have for each of the past six years. This incredibly lethal wildlife disease, which is devastating bat populations throughout the eastern half of North America, is now battering bats in Illinois in the U.S. Midwest and Prince Edward Island in Canada.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports that laboratory tests confirm WNS is attacking little brown myotis and northern myotis in four Illinois counties. The news is not unexpected, as the disease seems to be filling gaps within its range. WNS was previously confirmed in the surrounding states of Indiana and Missouri, and the fungus had been reported in Iowa. Twenty U.S. states are now facing the disease.
In Canada, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry confirmed that WNS was killing bats on Prince Edward Island off the southeast coast. This is the fifth Canadian province hit by White-nose Syndrome, which is blamed for the deaths of more than 5.7 million bats of seven species since its discovery in a cave in upstate New York in 2006.
“This sad news demonstrates that we must redouble our efforts to deal with this terrible disease. Funding to answer critical questions about control is lacking,” said Katie Gillies, Imperiled Species Coordinator for Bat Conservation International. “If these fatalities continue, the economic and ecologic costs will be astronomical.”
Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects, and the loss of 5.7 million bats means that up to 8,270 tons of insects are not being consumed each year. This could significantly impact agriculture and forests.
You can help Bat Conservation International in our fight against this deadly disease by contacting your legislators and urging them support funding for White-nose Syndrome research and management.
Read the Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release.