A fungal disease affecting hibernating bats has been confirmed in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reports white-nose syndrome was confirmed after several dozen dead bats were discovered in a mine in Cass County. The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, confirmed the disease in three bats from the mine – a little brown bat, a northern long-eared bat and a tri-colored bat.
Nebraska is now the 30th state to confirm the presence of white-nose syndrome, which has led to the death of six million bats since 2006.
“Finding bats with white-nose syndrome in Nebraska emphasizes the need to develop and implement new tools to manage the spread and reduce the severity of the impacts of this devastating disease,” Jeremy Coleman, national white-nose syndrome coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a written statement released by Game and Parks.
Monitoring for Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission first began in 2014. Pd was first detected in the state in 2015 on bats sampled from another mine in Cass County. In 2016, it was detected in bats sampled from a Sarpy County mine.
“Following the finding of Pd in 2015, the confirmation of white-nose syndrome in Nebraska has been expected,” Mike Fritz, Game and Parks’ natural heritage zoologist, said in a written statement. “We will continue to monitor the progression of white-nose syndrome in the state and use the most practical methods available to suppress the disease.”
White-nose syndrome attacks during hibernation. It can cause bats to wake and use up fat reserves. They might even emerge from hibernation too early. Some starve. Some freeze to death. Mortality rates have exceeded 95% in some states.
Bats are crucial to a healthy ecosystem. They eat insects that can damage agricultural crops, saving U.S. farmers at least $3 billion annually in pest-control services, according to Game and Parks. Four bat species known to use mines in Nebraska are susceptible to white-nose syndrome: little brown, big brown, tri-colored, and northern long-eared bats. Indiana and northern long-eared bats are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
White-nose syndrome is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets or livestock. It is transmitted primarily from bat to bat.
For more information about the disease and the response to it, visit: whitenosesyndrome.org. For additional information, contact Fritz at 402-471-5419 or Catherine Hibbard of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 413-531-4276.