Man-made cave might protect bats from white-nose syndrome

Photo by Microbe World, Flickr.

As we’ve reported before, bat populations around North America have been devastated by a deadly fungus know as white-nose syndrome. In June, the fungus was detected at the Maquoketa Caves in Iowa.

To help the bats, The Nature Conservancy has created a man-made cave in Tennessee meant to house bats during the winter and protect them from the fungus. The cave is about the size of a basketball court, and is equipped with video cameras.

The Nature Conservancy hopes that by monitoring the cave and cleaning it in the summer, the cave will become a fungus-free safe haven for bats.

Read more from Iowa Public Radio here.

Bat population threatened by fungal infection

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Flickr

A fungus plaguing North American bats could soon make its way to Iowa. This fungal infection, known as the “white-nose syndrome” (WNS), first forms on bats’ faces and wings during hibernation, and causes them to break hibernation prematurely. Once awoken, it’s not long before the sickly mammals are found dead. Eighteen states, along with areas of Canada, have confirmed cases of WNS. The projected spread of the fungus indicates that WNS could soon hit Iowa. Suspected cases have already been found in Missouri, including near the Missouri-Iowa border. As ugaresearch reports, the rapid spread of the fungus and its fatal nature have caused considerable anxiety among wildlife pathologists:

The syndrome has so far been confirmed in nine bat species, including two (the Indiana and the gray bat) that are already endangered. The mortality rate in some colonies has been greater that 90 percent – [wildlife pathologist Kevin] Keel calls WNS “ the most devastating infectious wildlife disease we’ve ever seen.” And because many bats produce only one “pup” a year, scientists now fear that several once-common species may suffer a major population collapse that could wipe them out entirely in some regions. Continue reading