Bats in North America are under assault from a relentless killer. It’s called white-nose syndrome (WNS), and it has devastated bat populations in the eastern U.S. and Canada over the past decade. More than 6 million bats have died. Some species may go extinct.
How You Can Help
You can help save bats by giving to The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee to support white-nose syndrome research for an effective treatment.
For information on building bat houses and becoming part of our “citizen science” project to add to our knowledge of bats in Tennessee please visit the Tennessee Bat Working Group webpage at: www.tnbwg.org.
Why Should You Care?
Bats play a critical role in the environment. They are the number one predator of night flying insects. Their value to U.S. agriculture has been estimated in a recent study at $23 billion annually.
The culprit is the invasive fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd.), which is not native to North America. It infects cave-dwelling bats, damages their wings, causes them to wake more frequently and raises their metabolism during winter hibernation. As a result, bats exhaust critical stores of fat they need to get through the winter, which leads to starvation. Most caves where the fungus has appeared have seen bat die-offs of 90 percent or more.
The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter and Bat Conservation International have teamed up to create a WNS Discovery Fund to provide grant support for crucial research to fight white-nose syndrome. Your financial support can help us win this fight.
The Nature Conservancy has also created an artificial bat cave in Tennessee to test ways to fight white-nose syndrome. Learn more about the artificial cave.
Tennessee Bat Species Most Affected by WNS
- Indiana Bats (Myotis sodalis) – Already on the Endangered Species List since 1973, this species is now being hit hard by WNS in Tennessee.
- Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) – Until recently one of the most common bat species in North America. It is suffering mass mortalities in Tennessee caused by WNS and could face extinction.
- Northern Long-Eared Bats (Myotis septentrionalis) – One of the hardest hit by WNS. Without intervention this will likely be the first bat species to die out in Tennessee and may become extinct.
- Tricolored Bats (Perimyotis subflavus) – Another species that was previously very common across North America. Tricolored bats were once ubiquitous in Southeastern caves, and you could rarely enter a cave in the region without seeing at least one. These animals have now been devastated by WNS, and their absence marks a distinct change for cavers and others who enter caves.
WNS Research Funded
Since 2014, The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee and Bat Conservation International have funded scientific research projects designed to test methods of fighting and controlling white-nose syndrome. One extremely promising project, which employs bacteria used to keep bananas from ripening too fast, has been shown to stop the WNS fungus from growing. It led to the release of healed bats!
But because we don’t know what tools or techniques for fighting WNS will be most effective and cost efficient, it’s imperative that we try many approaches. Controlling this disease may require employing several different strategies.
Projects we are funding:
- Optimizing the production of a naturally occurring bacterium (Rhodococcus rhodocrous) that counteracts the fungus to allow broad-scale use in treatments. (Dr. Chris Cornelison, Georgia State University) - This is the bacteria which led to healed bats being successfully released to the wild in May 2015.
- Manipulating the Pd. fungus so that a gene is “turned off” within the fungus rendering it harmless. (Dr. Daniel Lindner, U.S. Forest Service)
- Optimizing the treatment of bats using bacteria as a biological control of the fungus. (Dr. Auston M. Kilpatrick, University of California, Santa Cruz)
- Testing a fumigation compound as a control for the fungus. (Dr. Joan Bennett, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey)
- Testing how an environmental cleaning agent, chlorine dioxide, can be used to clean man-made hibernation sites, such as mines. (Dr. Jeff Foster, University of New Hampshire)
- Testing the effectiveness of a natural biopolymer, chitosan, for treating WNS-affected bats in the wild. (Dr. Maarten Vonhof, Western Michigan University)
- Testing the safety and effectiveness of two antimicrobial and enzyme inhibitors on WNS-affected bats. (Dr. Craig Willis, University of Winnipeg)