West Virginia Division of Natural Resources receives grant to address White-nose Syndrome in batsSOUTH CHARLESTON, West Virginia – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced grant awards totaling $1,276,088 to 30 states for white-nose syndrome (WNS) projects, including a $45,700 grant to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section (WRS). These funds will be used to monitor the state's bat populations and assist with research efforts focusing on White-Nose Syndrome, a disease which affects cave-dwelling bats.
First discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, the disease has spread through the eastern U.S. and parts of Canada, and continues to move westward. To date, the disease has been found in 25 states and five Canadian provinces. WNS was first documented in West Virginia in February 2009. White-Nose Syndrome is caused by a cold-loving fungus which affects bats while they are in hibernation.
Mortality from the disease can be extremely high, and the impact of WNS varies with bat species. The bat which appears to be hit the hardest is the little brown bat. Prior to the appearance of WNS, this species was one of the most common bats in the state. Winter surveys conducted by WRS biologists to monitor hibernating bats indicate that in West Virginia this species has declined by more than 96 percent since the winter of 2008-2009.
The WRS surveys also show an 87 percent decline in tricolored bat populations and an 80 percent decline in Indiana bats, a species which was considered endangered even before WNS appeared. Because all bats in West Virginia feed solely on insects, the loss of these bats results in a loss of a source of natural insect control.
The federal funds the WRS is receiving will fund biologists to monitor populations of bats in winter and summer, assist with ongoing research looking for ways to control WNS, and to participate in regional and national workshops addressing this disease.
Additional information about WNS is available at www.whitenosesyndrome.org/.