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NATURAL HERITAGE

Virginia Cave Board


- WHITE NOSE SYNDROME -
Unprecedented wildlife epidemic killing cave bats in Eastern North America


First documented in upstate New York in 2006 and arriving in Virginia in 2009, White Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that infects the skin and subcutaneous tissue of bats during hibernation. In addition to damaging tissue, the infection arouses bats from hibernation, causing them to burn up precious fat reserves.

myotis bat w/ white nose
Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) with white nose syndrome.
  • The disease has spread from a tiny area near Albany, New York to the entire Eastern United States in only 7 years.
    Click on map to enlarge.
  • white nose distribution map
  • Death rates of several species exceed 95%, and some species maybe at risk of extinction
  • The disease is spread via fungal spores, most commonly from bat to bat. However, transport of the spores by other animals, including humans, is a possibility
    • 7 of Virginia's 8 bat species that use caves are suffering to varying degrees from White Nose Syndrome (WNS)
    • Numbers of little brown, tricolored, and Northern bats have been reduced by over 90%.
    • The Endangered Indiana bat has suffered losses of 50% or more in affected areas.
    • The Eastern small-footed bat appears to be doing O.K. in Virginia, but has suffered a severe decline in New England where winters are colder and longer, and where it is more likely to hibernate in caves and mines.
    • tricolored bat picture
      Tricolored bat with fungus on wings and condensation (normal) on back.
    • The big brown and Endangered gray bats, though affected by WNS, appear for now to be holding their own.
    • The Endangered Virginia big-eared bat appears unaffected by WNS, perhaps due to antifungal properties of a yeast that grows on its fur.


Links to more information on white nose syndrome: