Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

Office of Public Affairs - 4401 North Fairfax Drive - Arlington VA 22203 - Phone 703-358-2220   Fax: 703-358-1930

September 17, 2010 

Contact:            Jeremy Coleman 607-753-9334

                         Donita Cotter 703-358-2383

                         Ann Froschauer 413-253-8356

 

National Wildlife Refuge System Closes Caves

to Slow Spread of White-Nose Syndrome

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s  National Wildlife Refuge System has decided to close caves and mines and implement  research and monitoring protocols in a nationwide effort to slow the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. Acting Service Director Greg Siekaniec issued the guidance in a memo dated Sept. 2, 2010.

 

First documented in New York in 2006, WNS has spread rapidly across the eastern United States, killing more than 1 million bats. Named for the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other body parts of hibernating bats, WNS is associated with extensive mortality of bats in the Northeast.

 

Bats with WNS are found to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during cold winter months including flying outside in the day and clustering near the entrance of hibernacula.

 

More than half of the 45 bat species living in the United States rely on hibernation for winter survival. Four endangered species and subspecies of hibernating bats in the U.S. are already affected by or are at risk from WNS.

 

The fungus associated with WNS, Geomyces destructans, has been detected as far west as Oklahoma, and is expected to continue spreading. While the fungus is transmitted primarily by bat to bat contact, biologists suspect it could be transmitted inadvertently by humans. Fungal spores can be transferred from cave sediment to clothing and instruments, and transported to unaffected sites.

 

The Service is leading a cooperative effort with federal and state agencies, researchers, universities and other non-government organizations to research and manage the spread of WNS.

 

To view the memo and information about WNS visit http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/.

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

 

-FWS-