Wisconsin Winter Surveillance Finds White-Nose Syndrome Spreading

Bat with White-nose Syndrome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bat with White-nose Syndrome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by USFWS

Wisconsin’s winter surveillance for white-nose syndrome has found the disease spread from a single mine in Grant County, where it was discovered in March 2014, to 14 sites in eight counties.

In total, 75 bat hibernacula were visited for disease surveillance throughout Wisconsin. Bats at sites in Grant, Crawford, Richland, Door and Dane county have tested positive for white-nose syndrome, while Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus known to cause the disease, has been confirmed at sites in Iowa, Dodge and Lafayette counties.

In addition, the Grant County mine was found to have an overall population reduction of 70 percent from pre-WNS estimates. At this time, this is the only affected site with a noticeable difference in population resulting from white-nose syndrome.

Although winter hibernation is over, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will continue to review public reports and respond to wildlife mortality events in order to monitor the health of Wisconsin’s bat population.

Efforts to control the human-assisted transmission of the fungus remain in place, including strict decontamination requirements for researchers and cavers, and efforts to educate commercial cave and mine visitors to help make sure they do not transport the fungus to other caves or mines. Every hibernaculum owner who allows visitors to their site has a white-nose syndrome plan in place.

The department has been actively exploring effective management strategies and continues to monitor bat populations and conduct research to fill information gaps. Through two Wisconsin Bat Program citizen-based monitoring projects, volunteers are helping to gather crucial data on bat population trends.

Citizens who find sick or dead bats, especially between October and March, are encouraged to report them to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bat Program.

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