Early Surveillance Detects WNS Fungus in Another Wisconsin Cave

Eastern Pipistrelle bat (Perimyotis subflavus) observed in Virginia'a Madison Saltpeter Cave.

Eastern Pipistrelle bat (Perimyotis subflavus) observed in Virginia’a Madison Saltpeter Cave. Photo by USFWS

Early winter surveillance of 15 Wisconsin caves revealed that two bats in a single Dane County cave tested positive for genetic markers of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.

Swabs taken from two Eastern Pipistrelles bats (Perimyotis subflavus) from a single cave—which Wisconsin DNR were quick to point out was not the popular show cave located in the Dane County, Cave of the Mounds—in November 2014, tested positive for the fungus. These finds represents both a new county and a new bat species infected with the fungus in Wisconsin.

White-nose syndrome was first detected in Wisconsin in a Grant County mine in March of 2014, when results from visual inspection and genetic and tissue tests showed that 2 percent of bats in the single site had the disease.

Despite the detection of the fungus at the Dane County cave, there are currently no signs of white-nose syndrome.

The upper Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, are the last remaining stronghold for the hibernating bats that are susceptible to white-nose syndrome. While researchers continue to work to find an effective treatment for the disease, it is critical that we do all we can to slow the spread of the fungus. Owen Boyle, Wisconsin DNR Species Management Section Chief

In an effort to control potential human-assisted transmission of the fungus, strict decontamination protocols and screening of commercial cave and mine visitors remain in place.

The recent findings reinforce the need for individuals who visit caves or mines to remain vigilant in properly decontaminating items and clothing to ensure the fungus isn’t inadvertently spread by people. Owen Boyle, Wisconsin DNR Species Management Section Chief

Bat surveillance crews will return to the cave in March to look for signs of white-nose syndrome and final results of this season’s surveillance and monitoring are expected later this spring.

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