Biodiversity: Feds launch national plan to save bats

National strategy for combating bat-killing white-nose syndrome focuses on research. management to prevent transmission and finding treatments

Bats are key pollinators and have a huge role in eating harmful insects. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal and state wildlife agencies and land managers across the country are teaming up to slow the spread of a bat-killing disease that has no known cure.

The highest priorities in a new national plan for combating white-nose syndrome are research and management strategies aimed at minimizing the risk of humans further spreading the disease. All the federal documents on white-nose syndrome are online here.

Researchers will investigate whether the commercial trafficking of bat guano increase the risk of spreading the disease, and work with cave owners to develop guidelines for access the lessens the risk of transmission. They will also look for potential biological and chemical treatments for infected bats, and try to figure how and why the disease developed so suddenly in North American bat populations.

The national strategy will also explore whether there’s potential for captive management of species of concern.

Communicating the economic and ecological importance of bats is another important element of the plan, as land and wildlife managers seek to garner public buy-in for conservation management measures, including limited access to caves.

White-nose syndrome has wiped out more than 1 million hibernation bats in eastern North America and threatens populations across the country with potentially disastrous economic and environmental consequences. By some estimates, a widespread loss of bat populations could result in $3 billion annually.

Insect-eating and pollinating bats are among the most overlooked economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the plan May 17 to coincide with a national symposium on white-nose syndrome.

“Having spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces, white-nose syndrome threatens far-reaching ecological and economic impacts,” Salazar said. “We’ve learned a lot in the past few years about the disease, but there is much more work to be done to contain it.”

Interior Department agencies have invested more than $10.8 million in this effort since 2007. This includes more than $3 million in research funding that is supporting ongoing research projects looking for methods to control or cure the disease.

Researchers working with the U.S. Geological Survey have identified Geomyces destructans, a fungus new to science, as the presumed causative agent.In addition to research, the national response has also developed decontamination protocols to reduce the transmission of the fungus, surveillance strategies, and technical white-nose syndrome diagnostic procedures.

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2 Responses

  1. [...] spread of a disease killing bats that known cure. The highest priorities in a [...] Read more on Summit County Citizens Voice Lagos calendar 1-31 May.: Crossroads for Women, a provider of drug abuse and mental health [...]

  2. [...] are also critical pollinators for wild plants and commercial agriculture. Recognizing that value, federal agencies have launched a concerted effort to address white-nose [...]

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