What Is White-Nose Syndrome?
This affliction has been given the name white–nose syndrome (WNS) because of the telltale white fungusgrowing on the noses of some infected bats while they hibernate. Only recently described as a new species, Geomyces destructans may appear on the wings, ears and/or tail membranes of afflicted bats, but it may also be absent.
Infected bats may arouse from hibernation to attempt to deal with the fungal infection and in doing so prematurely burn up their fat stores and starve to death mid–winter. WNS has killed whole wintering populations of bats in the eastern U.S. as they hibernate in caves or mines.
White–nose syndrome is not well understood and scientists are investigating all potential aspects of this mysterious disease. One popular hypothesis focuses on the fungus itself, a cold–habitat obligate that thrives from 5 to 15 ºC (41 to 59 ºF) - the same range of temperatures typical of bat hibernacula. G. destructans infects hibernating bats as their bodies are cold and amenable to its growth. The earliest evidence of WNS was at a cave in New York in 2006. Since then, over a million bats have died.
Bats are an essential and beneficial part of the ecosystem. Bats play critical roles in insect control, plant pollination, seed dissemination, cave ecosystems, and provide food for other animals. Please read the Western Bat Working Group Brochure and WNS FAQs for more information.
How Cavers can help prevent WNS
Aspects of the geographic spread suggest that humans may transmit WNS from infected sites to clean sites. This kind of spread is most likely occurring from clothing and equipment that are not properly cleaned and decontaminated between sites. Formal testing of human spread WNS is ongoing. Because of the devastating effects of WNS, it is critical that people assume responsibility for the potential spread of WNS.
Please do not use ANY gear or clothing in the west that you have used in caves/bat roosts east of the Mississippi River. There is a risk that you could spread the fungus that can kill bats in these caves.
Please ensure ALL gear and clothing used in western caves and roosts has been cleaned and disinfected before entering any other caves/roosts in the west. Soaking equipment for at least 10 minutes in a 10% bleach solution, Lysol all-purpose professional cleaner or Formula 409 is recommended.
Please see the official decontamination guidance and protocols for researchers and cavers off the white-nose syn drome.org website and visit ColoradoCaveSurvey.org for past WNS survey information.
What to do if a dead Bat is found
Because bats also can be affected by other health problems, including rabies, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife discourages members of the public from handling bats if at all possible. If you need to dispose of a dead bat found on your property, pick it up with a plastic bag over your hand or use disposable gloves. Place both the bat and the bag into another plastic bag, spray with disinfectant, close the bag securely and dispose of it with your garbage. Thoroughly wash your hands and any clothing that comes into contact with the bat.
If you see a band on the wing or a small device with an antenna on the back of a bat (living or dead), contact your state wildlife agency or your nearest service field office as these are tools for biologists to identify individual bats.
If five or more dead bats are found in a small (100 yards) area, please cover the bats with a box, can, bucket or similar container and contact your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer.
Working with or collecting Bats
Anyone interested in working with and collecting bats is required to follow the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s special licensing guidelines in order to get a permit. See the following documents:
Additional Outside Resources