Fungus That Causes Deadly Bat Disease Discovered In Mississippi?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The fungus known to cause white-nose syndrome (WNS) in hibernating bats, a disease that has decimated bat populations in the eastern United States and Canada, was recently discovered for the first time in Mississippi. The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, was detected in samples collected from several caves and road culverts in eastern Mississippi this past winter through a National Science Foundation-funded monitoring project.

Kathy Shelton, conservation biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science says the infection is at very low levels right now, but that could change. "It is very concerning that we have found the fungus in Mississippi," says Shelton, "but we have not found white-nose syndrome yet in our state, and will work hard to monitor the health of bats in Mississippi."  

Mississippi is one of three states where the fungus has been detected but WNS has not been confirmed. The fungus was also detected last year in Iowa and Minnesota, but to date, WNS has not been confirmed in those states. In contrast, P. destructans was also detected for the first time in Arkansas last year, and this year, the first bat mortalities from the disease were observed in the state.

Since its detection in New York in 2007, WNS has been confirmed in 25 states and five Canadian Provinces. Winter bat colonies in some states have declined by more than 90 percent. 

“With WNS established in the surrounding states, the detection of P. destructans in Mississippi does not come as a surprise," said Jeremy Coleman, national WNS coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "As WNS moves south and west, we are particularly interested in monitoring the progression of the disease, especially as new species and regions are exposed." 

WNS does not infect humans and is only known to affect cave-hibernating bats. There is no known treatment for wild bat populations. The fungus thrives in cold, humid environments and invades the skin of bats, disrupting their hibernating behavior and depleting their fat stores. The final cause of death of infected bats is still under investigation.

Mississippi has monitored for WNS since 2011, and surveys will expand next winter to include more caves and culverts with hibernating bat populations.                                                

To help prevent the spread of the fungus, all potential visitors to area caves should consult cave managers to check on access restrictions.  Cavers should always follow strict gear restriction and decontamination procedures, and cave managers should ensure that visitors adopt these practices. For example, no clothing or equipment that has been worn in a cave in eastern North America should be worn when visiting subsequent caves or mines outside of the WNS area, and equipment used in WNS-affected states and provinces should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use. "Since we know the fungus can be transmitted on clothing and gear, we hope to slow its spread through our state," says Shelton.

Information about WNS decontamination protocols can be found on the national WNS website at www.whitenosesyndrome.org/.

Connect with our white-nose syndrome Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwswns, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfws_wns, and download photos from our Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/collections/72157626455036388/.


Fishing Report From The TWRA

Here is the fishing report from the TWRA: Center Hill Reservoir :  Reservoir Conditions :  Current water elevation is 632.5.  The water surface temperature is averaging 40 degrees.  Saturday the water was stained in the back of creeks and clearer out in the main river. Largemouth Bass :  Fishermen had few bites but when they did, they were ... (click for more)

Land Trust For Tennessee's Emily Parish To Lead March Nature @ Noontime Program

Emily Parish, director of Conservation for the Land Trust for Tennessee will be the featured speaker for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s March Nature @ Noontime. The program will be held on Thursday, March 5, at the TWRA’s Region II Ray Bell Building in the Ellington Agriculture Complex. Ms. Parish will speak about the history and programs for The Land Trust for ... (click for more)

Winter Weather Advisory Goes Into Effect At 4 AM On Thursday

Temperatures were mild on Wednesday, but they were set to drop as the day goes on - leading to a Winter Weather Advisory. The advisory goes into effect at 4 a.m. on Thursday and is to continue until 4 p.m. The forecast is for freezing rain, sleet and snow with accumulations of two inches or less. Some events are already being called off due to the possibility of unsafe ... (click for more)

County Commission Votes 5-4 In Favor of Middle Valley Neighborhood Walmart

The County Commission on Wednesday voted 5-4 to allow a Walmart Neighborhood Center at Middle Valley Road and Thrasher Pike. Voting in favor were Jim Fields, Chester Bankston, Greg Beck, Warren Mackey and Joe Graham. Opposed were Marty Haynes, Sabrena Smedley, Tim Boyd and Randy Fairbanks. Commissioner Haynes, the District 3 representative where the project is located, ... (click for more)

Women Don't Ask For Rape, They Ask For Justice

The stereotypical irrationality that women typically lie about rape has brought an enormous amount of social stigma to this population. Many like to think that rape is not a huge issue in the United States, and that the media blows it out of proportion. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that approximately 17.7 million females in America have been raped, with 108,612 ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Happy Birthday, Mr. Berg

This past Monday we should have closed the Post Office, let kids out of school, and lowered our flags to half-mast. March 2 is the anniversary of Moe Berg’s birthday and the legendary Casey Stengel once said Moe was “the strangest man ever to play baseball.” Moe played major league baseball for 16 years, finishing with the Boston Red Sox in 1939 and a lifetime batting average of ... (click for more)