Biologists have confirmed white-nose syndrome (WNS) in the southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius) for the first time. The species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease.

Bat with White-Nose Syndrome/CDC
Bat with White-Nose Syndrome/CDC

The diseased bat was found in Shelby County, Alabama, at Lake Purdy Corkscrew Cave, by surveyors from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Nongame Program; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Alabama Ecological Services Field Office; Ecological Solutions, Inc.; and the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. The cave is owned by the Birmingham Water Works and managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting cave and karst environments across the Southeast through conservation, education and recreation. WNS in the southeastern bat was confirmed in the laboratory by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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A fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), causes WNS, which affects many, but not all bat species that come into contact with it. Of those affected, bat populations have declined by more than 90 percent. “We are disappointed to find white-nose syndrome in another species, but hopeful that the southeastern bat may fare better than many of its more northern cousins based on how long it took to be diagnosed with the disease,” said Jeremy Coleman, national WNS coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This discovery, along with the continued spread of Pd this year, reinforces the need for our continued vigilance in the face of white-nose syndrome.”

First detected in New York in 2007, WNS is now in 31 states and five Canadian provinces. Other species confirmed with WNS include little brown, northern long-eared, Indiana, Eastern small-footed, gray, tricolored, big brown and Yuma myotis. All the affected species eat insects and hibernate during the winter. The northern long-eared bat was designated as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2015 primarily due to the threat of WNS.


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