A fungus that causes white-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly disease of hibernating bats but not a direct health risk for humans, has been detected in North Dakota for the first time. The fungus was detected on one little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) that was captured on the night of May 6, 2019 within the boundary of Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, during proactive WNS testing conducted by the National Park Service Northern Great Plains Network in collaboration with the University of Wyoming.

Scientists with the USDA Forest Service and the University of New Hampshire have found what may be an Achilles’ heel in the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome: UV-light. White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in North America over the past decade.
Image/Daniel Lindner, USDA Forest Service

Bats are important for healthy ecosystems and contribute at least $3 billion annually to the U.S. agriculture economy through pest control and pollination. WNS has killed millions of bats in North America —with mortality rates of up to 100 percent observed at some colonies—since it was first seen in New York in 2006. To date, WNS has been confirmed in bats from 33 states and 7 Canadian provinces. North Dakota joins Wyoming, Mississippi and Texas as states that have detected Pd, but not yet confirmed WNS. The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, (Pd) causes WNS, named for the powdery, white fungus that often appears around infected bats’ muzzles.

White-nose syndrome fungus detected on bats in South Dakota for the first time

“Detection of the fungus in North Dakota this May demonstrates the continued expansion of this invasive pathogen through North America,” said Jeremy Coleman, National White-nose Syndrome Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which leads the national response to WNS. “As Pd continues to spread into new territory, biologists from many agencies and institutions are working together to understand and manage the impact of WNS on our native bats.” The National Park Service supported the operation with funds dedicated to WNS response in national parks to actively protect bats and their habitats.

Read more at National Park Service