Georgia Announces Arrival of White-Nose Syndrome
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced that bats with white-nose syndrome were found recently at two caves in Georgia’s Dade County.
In late February, some 15 tri-colored bats with visible white-nose symptoms were discovered by a national Park Service biologist and volunteers while in Lookout Mountain Cave in Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
Then on March 5th, volunteers visiting Sittons Cave at Cloudland Canyon State Park with a Georgia DNR biologist found another group of tri-colored bats showing visible symptoms of white-nose syndrome.
A bat from both sites were sent to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia where histopathology confirmed both bats as positive for the disease.
Today’s announcement follows behind yesterdays news of South Carolina’s confirmation of WNS, and makes Georgia the 22nd state to have bats test positive for the disease.
Last year, WNS was discovered on the Tennessee side of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, so it was only a matter of time before it crossed the border into Georgia.
We’ve been expecting the discovery of WNS in Georgia after it was confirmed in Tennessee and Alabama counties last season. Still, I don’t think anyone can prepare themselves to see it for the first time. Trina Morris, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist
In response to the threat of WNS, Georgia DNR’s ’s Wildlife Resources Division has developed a White-nose Syndrome Response Plan that outlines steps for raising awareness about white-nose syndrome, preventing or slowing its spread, reporting and analyzing bats, and managing related natural resources such as caves.
Now that WNS has been confirmed in the state, Georgia DNR is now urging cavers to reduce trips to Georgia’s caves and to be sure to follow all decontamination protocols.
Approximately 15 percent of Georgia’s caves are on state-managed lands.
Although Georgia has few known large hibernacula, the known hibernacula, including Sittons Cave, are currently closed in the winter to prevent disturbance to the hibernating bats. Meanwhile the National Park Service, which closed all caves at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 2009 in an attempt to slow the advance of WNS, will continue to keep them closed to try and reduce the risk of spreading the disease to other areas.
So far, the National Park Service has reported no evidence of mass mortality in bats at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and only about six dead bats were found at Sittons Cave. It was estimated that about one-third of the 1,600 or so live bats counted in the cave were showing visible signs of WNS.
Disease Deadly to Bats Confirmed in Georgia [Georgia Department of Natural Resources via NSS WNS Liaison Peter Youngbaer]