Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.
I just came back from a family vacation. We went to the beach in North Carolina, which is hard to beat. Truly beautiful area, wonderful weather and so relaxing.
We stayed in the states for our vacation, but more and more people are traveling to Europe or a foreign country. It is just so easy.
People and products move around the globe at great speeds. Giant post-Panamax vessels can move thousands of containers at a time. The largest stretches more than four football fields.
|A researcher from Boston University inspects a bat wing in 2012. Photo by Ann Froschauer/USFWS|
This is great for the economy and vacationers, but not always for wildlife. Along with those people and products, come non-native species that can invade our native environment and diseases that can attack unprepared native species.
One of those diseases is white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions of bats. It is believed to have been brought here inadvertently, possibly from Europe, where the disease is endemic but does not seem to be fatal to bats. Perhaps a person brought a few fungal spores back on the bottom of her shoe. It only takes a tiny chunk of soil – smaller than a dime – to move the deadly fungal spores from place to place.
Since its discovery in New York in 2006-07, the disease has killed more than 5.5 million bats and is spreading though the country. Arkansas is the latest state to find evidence of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, announcing the news Monday.
As with so much about the disease – like why does it hurt North American bats but not their European counterparts? – we aren’t positive just what the presence of the fungus means. Will Arkansas bats begin showing symptoms in one year or three?
But we have made great strides in the years since its discovery.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leads a cooperative international effort of more than 100 agencies and organizations to address the disease and conserve North American bat species. Earlier this summer, we awardedgrants to 28 states to work on the disease.
This cooperative group developed a "National Plan for Assisting States, Federal Agencies and Tribes in Managing White-Nose Syndrome in Bats," published in May 2011, that agencies throughout North America have used to tackle the disease.
We have also funded research, working with our partners to further our understanding of bats and of the disease. Funded projects have isolated the fungus that causes WNS and developed tools to detect the presence of the fungus in advance of the disease, like in Arkansas. We are also investigating non-chemical control options, and we are hopeful we will find a way to disrupt the disease cycle. As the disease spreads, it is critical to maintain a strong partnership in working toward conservation of bat species.
We have not found a solution yet, but we have made great progress in understanding and responding to this threat to North American bats. And the Fish and Wildlife Service and its many partners will never give up on bats.