Wednesday, April 30, 2014 — The following release is from The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission:
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States, continues its deadly toll on North Carolina bat populations.
The cold-weather disease, which can kill up to 100 percent of bats in a colony, was first detected in North Carolina in February 2011, in a bat from Avery County. Since that time, biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have confirmed the disease in four bat species in eight counties in western North Carolina, with an additional two counties considered suspect for WNS.
During winter cave surveys conducted in January and February 2014, biologists found that some previously WNS-infected locations showed up to a 99 percent decline in hibernating bats over the last two to three years.
At a mine in Avery County, the number of hibernating bats was down from approximately 1,000 in 2011 to 65 bats last year to just 17 this winter. In a Haywood County mine, the number of bats plummeted from nearly 4,000 bats to about 55 bats in only two years.
Even worse than the drop in numbers is the confirmation that WNS is spreading. For the first time, biologists this winter documented WNS-infected bats in Jackson County and saw telltale signs of WNS on bats in Cherokee County, bringing the total number of counties either confirmed or suspect for WNS to 10.
“We continued to find small numbers of dead bats during this last survey, and we also continue to hear reports of unusual bat behavior, such as bats flying during the day in cold weather and flying erratically, which can be signs of a bat infected with white-nose syndrome,” said Gabrielle Graeter, a wildlife diversity biologist with the Commission.