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A tri-color bat in the Avery County with white-nose syndrome. Photo by Gabrielle Graeter, NCWRC.

Fish and Wildlife Service directs money to Southeast to fight bat disease

Southeastern states from North Carolina to Mississippi will receive nearly $300,000 to study and fight a fatal disease sweeping bat colonies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced Monday.

The Service is disbursing $289,236 to 10 southeastern states to research and battle white-nose syndrome (WNS), an affliction that has decimated bats across about two-thirds of the United States.

The allocation represents nearly a third of just over $1 million distributed across 37 states where the disease has turned up, the Service said. An array of agencies will use the money.

This year’s funding is timely, said Nick Wiley, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Funding from the Service provides state fish and wildlife agencies with critically important support to manage and mitigate the spread of the disease to new areas of the country,” Wiley said.

In the Southeast, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee will receive up to $30,000, the Service said.

“The money will help take the fight to WNS,” said Jeremy Coleman, the Service’s national white-nose syndrome coordinator.

“Bats are beneficial in many ways,” he said. “While state natural resource agencies are on the front lines of bat conservation, many have limited options for responding to this devastating disease without these funds.”

For example, the money will be useful in Alabama, which has no full-time workers dedicated to bat conservation. With previous Service funding, the state documented the disease in the southeastern bat for the first time this year.

“The WNS grants to states program is absolutely critical to our efforts to understand the disease in Alabama and contribute to the national fight against WNS,” said Nicholas Sharp, nongame biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Without it we simply would not have the capacity to do this work.”

WNS was discovered in a New York cave a decade ago. Since then the fungus has spread to 33 states and five Canadian provinces. It is a presence in eight of the nation’s top 10 agricultural producing states.

Insect-eating bats keep agricultural pest populations down, saving farmers at least $3.7 billion per year in lost crop revenue and preventing the need for spraying costly toxic chemicals.

In the past eight years, the Service has dedicated $7 million to WNS programs. More than 100 state, federal, tribal, academic and nonprofit partners have participated in Service-funded efforts.

Funding priorities this year include coordinating with the Bats for the Future Fund for WNS treatment trials. Money also will be used to monitor bats, plus plan WNS responses and conservation actions.

Additional information about WNS is available at whitenosesyndrome.org. You can also learn more about WNS by following the Service’s WNS Facebook, Twitter and Flickr pages.

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. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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