A fungus that causes white-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly disease of bats, has been detected on bats in South Dakota for the first time. The fungus was detected on one western small-footed bat (Myotis ciliolabrum) and four big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) in Jackson County at Badlands National Park on May 10, 2018, during proactive WNS testing conducted by the National Park Service Northern Great Plains Network in collaboration with the University of Wyoming. This is also the first known detection of the fungus on a western small-footed bat. Current evidence indicates that WNS is not a direct health risk for humans.
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 32 states and 7 Canadian provinces. South Dakota joins Mississippi and Texas as states that have detected Pseudogymnoascus destructans, (Pd), but not confirmed WNS. WNS, named for the powdery, white Pd growth that often appears around infected bats’ muzzles.
The fungus was detected in South Dakota during field examination of live bats using ultraviolet light and swab samples sent to the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. Those results were repeated in follow-up tests by the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center. While these results confirm the presence of the fungus, they do not confirm the WNS disease, which can only be confirmed by microscopic examination of tissue samples. Tissue samples were not taken during this sampling.
“The early detection of the fungus in South Dakota was the result of collaborative efforts made possible by a National Plan to respond to white-nose syndrome,” said Jeremy Coleman, National White-nose Syndrome Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which leads the national response to WNS. “As the disease continues to spread across North America, biologists from many agencies are working together to prepare for and detect Pd as soon as possible and are ready to respond.”