Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deadly white-nose syndrome found on bats in Cuyahoga and Geauga County parks

Hibernating Indiana bats hang from the ceiling of a cave in
Indiana. The are also found in Northeast Ohio, and have been
an endangered species even before the discovery of white-nose
syndrome here.
Northeast Ohio's bat population could be wiped out in three years, naturalists warn, now that a devastating disease has been found in Cuyahoga, Summit and Geauga counties.

Such a loss would create an imbalance in the environment, causing a rise in mosquitoes, moths and other bugs, which the region's hordes of bats consume in large numbers nightly.

The dire warning grows from the spread of white-nose syndrome, a fatal fungus found in the past month on dead bats.

The latest announcement came Thursday when the Geauga Park District said that biologists had recently discovered the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats hibernating in cave areas of the West Woods in Russell and Newbury townships.

Two weeks ago, Cleveland Metroparks officials found a little brown bat with white-nose syndrome in the North Chagrin Reservation, park district naturalist Tim Krynak said.



And biologists with the Summit County Metro Parks discovered white-nose syndrome in a dead bat found in a cave in Liberty Park in Twinsburg in mid-January.

"We knew this was coming, but we didn't know when until the first announcement came from Liberty Park," Krynak said. "Am I alarmed? No . . . but I am sad. The discovery of white-nose syndrome has a 100 percent mortality rate on bats after a couple of years."

No cure has been found for white-nose syndrome, which is why it's so devastating to the bats, said Geauga Park District biologist Paul Pira. Humans cannot contract the disease.

Bats play an extremely important role in our region, said Harvey Webster, wildlife director at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. One little brown bat, the most common species locally, consumes 600 mosquitoes an hour.

Although there are no statistical surveys of the number of bats in Northeast Ohio, Webster said a conservative estimate is that they number "tens to hundreds of thousands."

The fungus was first discovered in the United States in February 2006 in caves 40 miles west of Albany, N.Y. A photographer took pictures of hibernating bats with an unusual white substance on their noses and noticed several dead bats.

Evidence of white-nose syndrome is found on the noses and wings of hibernating bats. It quickly spreads from bat to bat because bats cluster together by the thousands to keep warm.

Where the fungus came from is unknown, although it exists in parts of Europe, according to Webster.

Biologists discovered white-nose syndrome in Ohio last March in Wayne National Forest, Webster said.

"The fact that it has popped up here is disturbing," Webster said. "It's a bad and novel threat to our bat population . . . and all of our bat species are threatened by this."

He said that since white-nose syndrome was discovered in 2006, it has killed between 5 million and 6 million bats.

Besides eating mosquitoes, bats devour beetles, moths and other pests. Naturalists are concerned that without bats, agriculture and entire ecosystems will change for the worse.

Webster said the fungus does not grow in warm weather (above 68 degrees) but thrives in cold places like caves where bats roost for the winter. People can spread it, Webster said, and that's the belief among naturalists about how the fungus arrived in the United States.

"The fungus irritates the bats," he said. "It causes them to arouse from hibernation earlier than normal. Normally in hibernation, bats don't expend energy. Once aroused, they look for food, But because it's winter, they can't find the insects they like to eat and end up using their stored energy trying to find them.

"Even if they do survive until the spring, these bats end up dying because they have no energy left to fly."

Krynak said that is what happened to the little brown bat they found two weeks ago. It came out of hibernation too early and returned to its "maternity spot" looking for food that was nonexistent in February.

Krynak said the most common bats found in Northeast Ohio are the little brown bats, big brown bats, northern long-eared bats, tri-colored bats and an endangered species, the Indiana bat.

Geauga Park District biologists placed signs Wednesday within 30 feet of the West Woods' caves to close them to humans, park spokeswoman Sandy Ward said. They also decontaminated their boots to meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protocol.

Source: Cleveland.com

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deadly white-nose syndrome found on bats in Cuyahoga and Geauga County parks

Hibernating Indiana bats hang from the ceiling of a cave in
Indiana. The are also found in Northeast Ohio, and have been
an endangered species even before the discovery of white-nose
syndrome here.
Northeast Ohio's bat population could be wiped out in three years, naturalists warn, now that a devastating disease has been found in Cuyahoga, Summit and Geauga counties.

Such a loss would create an imbalance in the environment, causing a rise in mosquitoes, moths and other bugs, which the region's hordes of bats consume in large numbers nightly.

The dire warning grows from the spread of white-nose syndrome, a fatal fungus found in the past month on dead bats.

The latest announcement came Thursday when the Geauga Park District said that biologists had recently discovered the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats hibernating in cave areas of the West Woods in Russell and Newbury townships.

Two weeks ago, Cleveland Metroparks officials found a little brown bat with white-nose syndrome in the North Chagrin Reservation, park district naturalist Tim Krynak said.



And biologists with the Summit County Metro Parks discovered white-nose syndrome in a dead bat found in a cave in Liberty Park in Twinsburg in mid-January.

"We knew this was coming, but we didn't know when until the first announcement came from Liberty Park," Krynak said. "Am I alarmed? No . . . but I am sad. The discovery of white-nose syndrome has a 100 percent mortality rate on bats after a couple of years."

No cure has been found for white-nose syndrome, which is why it's so devastating to the bats, said Geauga Park District biologist Paul Pira. Humans cannot contract the disease.

Bats play an extremely important role in our region, said Harvey Webster, wildlife director at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. One little brown bat, the most common species locally, consumes 600 mosquitoes an hour.

Although there are no statistical surveys of the number of bats in Northeast Ohio, Webster said a conservative estimate is that they number "tens to hundreds of thousands."

The fungus was first discovered in the United States in February 2006 in caves 40 miles west of Albany, N.Y. A photographer took pictures of hibernating bats with an unusual white substance on their noses and noticed several dead bats.

Evidence of white-nose syndrome is found on the noses and wings of hibernating bats. It quickly spreads from bat to bat because bats cluster together by the thousands to keep warm.

Where the fungus came from is unknown, although it exists in parts of Europe, according to Webster.

Biologists discovered white-nose syndrome in Ohio last March in Wayne National Forest, Webster said.

"The fact that it has popped up here is disturbing," Webster said. "It's a bad and novel threat to our bat population . . . and all of our bat species are threatened by this."

He said that since white-nose syndrome was discovered in 2006, it has killed between 5 million and 6 million bats.

Besides eating mosquitoes, bats devour beetles, moths and other pests. Naturalists are concerned that without bats, agriculture and entire ecosystems will change for the worse.

Webster said the fungus does not grow in warm weather (above 68 degrees) but thrives in cold places like caves where bats roost for the winter. People can spread it, Webster said, and that's the belief among naturalists about how the fungus arrived in the United States.

"The fungus irritates the bats," he said. "It causes them to arouse from hibernation earlier than normal. Normally in hibernation, bats don't expend energy. Once aroused, they look for food, But because it's winter, they can't find the insects they like to eat and end up using their stored energy trying to find them.

"Even if they do survive until the spring, these bats end up dying because they have no energy left to fly."

Krynak said that is what happened to the little brown bat they found two weeks ago. It came out of hibernation too early and returned to its "maternity spot" looking for food that was nonexistent in February.

Krynak said the most common bats found in Northeast Ohio are the little brown bats, big brown bats, northern long-eared bats, tri-colored bats and an endangered species, the Indiana bat.

Geauga Park District biologists placed signs Wednesday within 30 feet of the West Woods' caves to close them to humans, park spokeswoman Sandy Ward said. They also decontaminated their boots to meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protocol.

Source: Cleveland.com