White-Nose Syndrome Continues to Ravage Cave Bat Populations

Wisconsin bats continue to be hit hard by white-nose syndrome (WNS).  All 60 survey sites visited by conservation biologists in winter 2018 showed signs of infection.  A 99 percent decrease from historic averages at the first documented infection site; a 92 percent drop at sites in their fourth year of infection, and an 85 percent drop at sites in their third year of infection were documented. Twenty-five of the 28 counties with known bat hibernacula now have WNS or the fungus that causes it. The steep loss of these beneficial insect-eaters is likely to be reflected this summer in the nighttime skies.

On the brighter side of things, progress is being made in treatments and vaccines of WNS. Some of that good news includes:

  • Three of the nine bats found in the Grant County site where white-nose syndrome was first detected in 2014 were juveniles, indicating some natural reproduction is still taking place.
  • A technique to administer vaccines to bats to prevent white-nose syndrome infections is showing promise and DNR bat biologists will continue assisting the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Wisconsin researchers in refining the method this summer.
  • A treatment using ultra-violet light is showing promise in killing the fungus causing white-nose syndrome in bats. DNR bat biologists have continued to work with scientists at the U.S. Forest Service in Madison and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania on the study.

To read more about the white-nose syndrome updates click here.