Bat Populations In Trouble
10:00 am
Sun April 13, 2014

White Nose Turns Up in Wisconsin

Biologists have found the first trace of a deadly bat disease in Wisconsin.  Bats tested positive for white nose syndrome at a mine in southwestern Wisconsin.

White nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that fatally interrupts bats' hibernation.
Credit Marvin Moriarty / US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Grant County location where white nose was found…is within flying distance of an Illinois site where the syndrome turned up in 2012.  Biologists are guessing a bat from that location carried the disease to Wisconsin. 

White nose has also been found for the first time in several locations in the Upper Peninsula.

The Wisconsin DNR’s Paul White says it’s likely the disease will spread throughout the state.

“It does seem like the Pacman is closing in, the jaws are closing in.  It’s inevitable – only a matter of time.” 

The disease is caused by a fungus that produces characteristic white fuzz on a bat’s nose and wings.  It causes hibernating bats to wake up too often during winter, depleting fat stores and leading death.

White says he’s trying to be optimistic about the future of Wisconsin’s bats, but the disease has a discouraging track record. 

“The way it has played in out in New York and Vermont and Pennsylvania – they’ve seen 300,000 bats turn into a 1000 bats in the course of a couple here.  So it definitely puts a knot in your stomach to think that that could potentially happen in Wisconsin.”

The DNR says it will continue to limit access to some caves and require decontamination procedures to minimize the chance of humans spreading the disease to new locations. 

It’s also asking the public to report sick or dead bats, and get involved in citizen bat monitoring programs.