A short dose of ultraviolet light might save North America’s bats

Researchers have found that the fungus that has been decimating bat populations in the eastern United States for the past decade is easily killed by a short dose of ultraviolet light.

Upon being compared to six non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus species, it was found that P. destructans lacks a key enzyme that allows it to repair DNA damage caused by ultraviolet light. When samples of the fungus were exposed to a low dose of UV-C light from a handheld source, the survival rate was only about 15 percent – this dropped to less than 1 percent when the dose was moderate. In both cases, the duration of exposure was a matter of no more than a few seconds.

Next comes a control group experiment. If this proves true, than it might be possible to safely sterilize both bat populations and caves of the fungus. To work, however, the task will likely require repeated yearly visits to bat hibernation sites to kill the fungus before it causes the bats to wake up in the winter. Such visits have their own problems, and would be difficult to pay for. However, I am sure the caving community across the U.S. would be glad to volunteer for this effort, and could handle it.

White nose syndrome found on Washington state bat

Bad news for bats: Scientists have confirmed a bat with white nose syndrome in the state of Washington, 1,300 miles further west than the previous detection.

On March 11, hikers found the sick bat about 30 miles east of Seattle near North Bend, and took it to Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) for care. The bat died two days later, and had visible symptoms of a skin infection common in bats with WNS. PAWS then submitted the bat for testing to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, which confirmed through fungal culture, molecular and pathology analyses that it had WNS.

I hate to express such a thought, but I can’t help wonder about the legitimacy of this detection. It is so far west and so far from the nearest other bat with white nose syndrome I cannot understand how this bat came to be infected, naturally. In order for this discovery to be confirmed they are going to have to detect it again, and more than once, on a number of bats. Otherwise, it will remain suspect and a possible false positive.

The worst part of this is that the government is surely going to begin instituting draconian measures to protect the bats in Washington, as well as across the entire western United States, even before this detection is confirmed. Having this single detection will make it much easier for government officials to ban humans from many more places, even though white nose syndrome is nowhere close.

Data now suggests that the bats are showing signs of recovery in the first caves hit by white nose syndrome in New York.

Good news: Data now suggests that the bats are showing signs of recovery in the first caves hit by white nose syndrome in New York. More here. Plus here’s a link describing some of the research being done on this subject.

Note that the death toll listed in these stories is nothing more than an arbitrary exaggeration by government officials. The National Speleological Society estimates that the numbers are probably far less, and based on my own caving experience, I agree.

White nose syndrome has been found in bats in Europe

White nose syndrome, the fungus that has been killing bats in the northeast United States these past five years, has now been definitively found on bats in Europe.

With this information, scientists now know that it is the differences between North American and European bats that can explain why European bat colonies can survive the fungus while North American bats cannot. Furthermore, this information should show us how future North American bats will adapt to the fungus.

For as yet unexplained reasons, scientists have been finding isolated colonies of little brown bats — once the most common bat species in the region and the hardest hit by white nose syndrome — surviving and healthy.

Hope for North America’s bats: For as yet unexplained reasons, scientists have been finding isolated colonies of little brown bats — once the most common bat species in the region and the hardest hit by white nose syndrome — surviving and healthy.

In Vermont, biologists have identified 15 colonies in the western part of the state where the numbers of little brown bats, while still far fewer than before white nose appeared, are surviving, said Vermont Fish and Wildlife Biologist Scott Darling. “We visited each and every one of those colonies and to some degree, much to our surprise, they seem to be healthy,” Darling said. “It begged the question, ‘Why are you the lucky ones?'”

The cause of white nose, the killer of bats

Scientists today confirmed that the fungus, Geomyces destructans, causes white nose syndrome, the deadly killer that has been wiping out cave-hibernating bats throughout the eastern United States.

A science team led by David Blehert of the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin captured healthy little brown bats and infected them with the fungus while they were in hibernation, some by direct application and others by putting them in contact with already infected bats. After 102 days, all of the first group had developed white nose on their muzzles and wings, while 16 of 18 of the second group had become infected as well.
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More stupidity from the Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) today sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Colorado for allowing caving to take place at the annual convention of the National Speleological Society.

The CBD claims that human activity can spread white nose syndrome, the mysterious ailment that has been killing millions of bats across the eastern United States. To quote:

It is well documented that the fungus believed to cause white-nose syndrome, aptly named Geomyces destructans, can be spread on the clothes and gear of people visiting caves. Scientists strongly suspect that the disease is a recent import from Europe, likely transported by someone who visited a cave there and then came to North America.

To be blunt, this statement is an outright lie.
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Congress removes wolf from endangered list

Congress removes the wolf from the endangered list. From Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana):

“Right now, Montana’s wolf population is out of balance and this provision will get us back on the responsible path with state management. Wolves have recovered in the Northern Rockies. By untying the hands of the Montana biologists who know how to keep the proper balance, we will restore healthy wildlife populations and we will protect livestock. This provision is best for our wildlife, our livestock and for wolves themselves.”

I don’t know if Tester’s description of the situation in Montana is accurate (though I tend to rely on local expertise in these matters). However, to get an opposing viewpoint the article above goes to the Center for Biological Diversity, an organization I do know something about. In caving matters relating to white nose syndrome, CBD has pushed extremist and outright ignorant policy positions (trying for example to have all caves and mines on all public lands closed in order to protect bats, even though there is literally no evidence that such an action made sense). I would not trust their opinions under any condition.