The Game and Fish Commission
said today that white-nose syndrome
, a disease fatal to several bat species,
has been found in two private caves in Independence and Newton counties. That means the syndrome has been found in four counties and is suspected in three others.
Since the syndrome was discovered in New York in 2006, it has killed millions of bats and been found in 25 states.
The Commission news release follows:
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome, a disease fatal to several bat species, in two caves early last year. Arkansas now has confirmed bats from four counties have WNS and it is suspected in three others. Since 2010, the AGFC and other public agencies around the state have closed most all public caves in the state to slow the spread of white-nose syndrome.
The Independence County cave was surveyed in January. Two dead tri-colored bats were submitted to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. where the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome was confirmed. Later in January, in the cave on the Buffalo River in Newton County biologists found three tri-colored bats that had fungus on their muzzles. Two of the bats were confirmed to have white-nose syndrome. Also in a January survey, biologists found the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome on tri-colored bats and the walls of a cave on the McIlroy Madison County WMA.
AGFC Nongame Mammal Program Leader Blake Sasse said the findings don’t bode well for the state’s bat population. “I’m not surprised. In spite of all efforts, nothing has been able to stop the spread of this disease since it was discovered in the United States several years ago,” Sasse said. White-nose syndrome was discovered in a cave in New York in 2006. Since then, it has been confirmed in five Canadian provinces and 25 states. It is not known to affect humans, but has been responsible for the deaths of millions of bats. “So far we haven’t seen any significant population declines of Arkansas bat populations, but that is probably only a matter of time,” Sasse noted.
White-nose syndrome is believed to cause bats to use up their fat reserves rapidly during hibernation. Affected bats sometimes fly out of caves during winter in an attempt to find food. Since the insects bats eat are seasonally dormant, the bats die of starvation. While the night creatures are often portrayed in a negative light, bats play a key role in keeping insects, including agricultural pests, mosquitoes, and forest pests under control.
As with any wild animal, do not approach or touch dead or dying bats. Contact the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as soon as possible at www.agfc.com to report your observations. Additional resources on white-nose syndrome can be found at www.whitenosesyndrome.org.