Published Date: 2009-02-08 22:00:45
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (02): (northeast)
Archive Number: 20090208.0578
WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME, BATS - USA (02): (NORTHEAST)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 8 Feb 2009
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer [edited]
Hundreds of dead bats have been found atop the snow outside 2
abandoned Lackawanna County mines, among Pennsylvania's largest and
most important bat sites.
At one mine near Carbondale, state Game Commission officials
described bats flying from the mine and dropping from the sky, their
tiny carcasses piled at the bases of nearby trees.
"Hundreds were visible on top of the most recent snow, so I suspect
there are thousands," biologist Kevin Wenner of the agency's
Northeast Region office in Dallas said in a statement.
Officials were hardly surprised, but nonetheless troubled.
Game Commission executive director Carl G. Roe said in a statement
that the findings signal an uncertain future for cave bats, which
play an important role in the ecosystem and benefit humans because
they eat huge quantities of insects, including mosquitoes and crop pests.
Over the last 2 years, a disorder that has come to be known as
white-nose syndrome -- because of a fungus around the bats' muzzles
-- has killed thousands of bats in New England. In some cases, 90
percent of whole colonies were wiped out.
Biologists feared it would spread south and began monitoring bat
colonies more closely. Sure enough, earlier this year , New
Jersey officials discovered dead bats and signs of the fungus in North Jersey.
Pennsylvania researchers discovered the fungus among bats in Mifflin
County the week before Christmas, but none seemed to be dying.
They know only that the fungus and the deaths are related, but they
don't know whether the fungus causes the deaths or is a symptom of
The bats wake up from hibernation early. With scant fat reserves,
they fly from the caves in search of insects, which aren't around
this time of year. So they die.
Biologists also attempted to get to the Lackawanna mines in December
2008 because they are closer to New York, where the virus has spread.
At one, there were no dead bats outside, and the mine was too
dangerous to enter. At the other, the researchers couldn't get
through the snow pack. They asked citizens to be on the alert. Last
week, a Carbondale resident called in. Wenner and agency biologist
Greg Turner visited and confirmed the suspicion.
Bucknell University bat expert DeeAnn Reeder said yesterday [7 Feb
2009] that the findings suggest many other caves in the state could
be experiencing bat deaths.
"One of the things this new finding highlights is the role of the
citizen scientist," she said. "There are so many sites that we don't
even know about."
Roe said the state's bat biologists "have been actively involved in
field monitoring and research and are working closely with some of
this country's best and brightest minds in biology and epidemiology
in their pursuit of clues."
But, he said, "a year later, there are just as many questions about
white-nose syndrome, and more dead bats."
The game commission is asking the public to report bats that appear
sick or are dead.
A "Report Sick Bats" form can be accessed in the left-hand column of
the commission's website at <http://www.pgc.state.pa.us>.
People should not handle bats dead or alive and should keep children
and pets away from grounded bats.
[Byline: Sandy Bauers]
ProMED-Mail Rapporteur Susan Baekeland
[This is the 1st confirmed case in Pennsylvania. It was feared and
suspected, but until now, it was not confirmed. - Mod.TG]