White nose syn­drome

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Wheels -

White nose syn­drome is a fun­gal disease that in­fects bats when they are hi­ber­nat­ing. It is lethal to them.

“It’s a lit­tle bit late in the year to be look­ing at them, but we’re still look­ing at many of the mor­tal­i­ties to see if they have any signs of white nose syn­drome,” ac­cord­ing to Shelley Moores, se­nior man­ager of Wildlife Re­search with the prov­ince’s depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment.

“When they are in their caves in the win­ter­time, the fun­gus gets on them,” Moores ex­plains. “It’s trans­ferred both to the sur­face of the caves and into the bats. It causes wing dam­age and of­ten it will grow around their face; that’s where you get the white nose name for the disease.

“It causes them to be aroused through­out the win­ter be­cause it de­hy­drates them. They wake up quite a bit more fre­quently then they nor­mally would and that causes fur­ther de­hy­dra­tion and burns up a lot of their en­ergy stores,” she said. “Then you will ac­tu­ally find them on the land­scape, in late win­ter, early spring.

“Even when there is snow on the ground, some­times you will find a fly­ing bat be­cause they are awake, and they are look­ing for food and wa­ter. They are so de­hy­drated and ema­ci­ated, they don’t sur­vive.”

The disease has a 99 per cent mor­tal­ity rate for bats.

Dis­eased bats have been found re­cently in St. An­drews, Stephenville, Bay St. Ge­orge area, Steady Brook and Rocky Har­bour.

The disease usu­ally starts to spread in the fall when the bats are swarm­ing and look­ing for mates. It usu­ally takes two years to get a 99 per cent in­fec­tion rate.

“It hung off the coast of New­found­land for a while,” Moores says. “Once it hit Nova Sco­tia, it sort of stopped for a few years.

“We had kind of hoped that it wouldn’t make it across the (Cabot) Strait but there is ge­netic ev­i­dence that the bats do move back and forth. We just didn’t know how fre­quent that was.”

She went on to say, “In the fall bats from a bunch of dif­fer­ent ar­eas come to­gether and they swarm and that’s when they breed. When they are swarm­ing, that’s when the spores can be ex­changed be­cause some of the bats will be go­ing in and out of the hi­ber­na­tion site and bats from other ar­eas can come in and they can con­tam­i­nate that par­tic­u­lar area as well.”

White nose syn­drome started in the north eastern United States and moved into Canada at the rate of ap­prox­i­mately 250 kilo­me­tres a year. It has crept into bat colonies past the Rock­ies in the States but has only been found as far west as On­tario in Canada.

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