Chattanooga Softball Gets Alabama Regional With Alabama, Stanford, Murray State

Bat Counts Shrink As White-Nose Syndrome Spreads In Georgia

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The disease that has killed more than six million bats in North America hasn’t spared Georgia.

 

Since white-nose syndrome was first found here in 2013, the number of bats has plummeted by about 90 percent in caves and mines the Georgia Department of Natural Resources surveys each winter.

 

“They’re just gone,” said Katrina Morris, lead bat researcher for DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section.

 

The surveys help gauge the impact of white-nose, or WNS, in the state.

Nongame Conservation checked 20 hibernacula or refuges this winter, all but two of them in north Georgia. Morris’ report notes that:

-  Sixteen either tested positive for the fungus that causes white-nose, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or showed signs of being infected.

-  In 10 caves checked annually since at least 2014, bat counts are down overall by 92 percent.

-  Except for gray bats, no other Myotis bats were seen. While counts of bats in this genus are always low in north Georgia caves, this was the first time researchers found none, Morris said.

 

First documented in North America in New York in 2007, white-nose has spread through the eastern U.S. and into Canada. The disease took a 1,300-mile leap from Minnesota to Washington in March, when a sick bat near Seattle tested positive. In Georgia, white-nose is confirmed or suspected in 11 counties. White-nose poses no known risk to humans.

 

The fungus Pd thrives in the cold and humid conditions characteristic in caves and mines used by hibernating bats. The disease Pd causes is named for the white fungus often found growing on the muzzle and skin of affected bats. The fungus results in bats being awakened too often from hibernation or less intense torpor, and using fat reserves needed for hibernation long before winter is over.

 

Death rates of 90-100 percent have been seen at some hibernacula. Causes of death vary from starvation to stressed immune systems.

 

One of the first sites in Georgia documented with white-nose is also one of the most telling examples of the fallout. Counts at Sitton’s Cave, a popular grotto at Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest Georgia, have shrunk from more than 1,700 bats in 2013 to 62 this year, a 96 percent decline.

 

Morris said that unlike at some affected hibernacula in the North, where dead or dying bats are found in the snow near entrances, in Georgia “we don’t usually see piles of dead bats. We see missing bats.”

 

While DNR biologists can only survey a small number of caves, those checked likely represent the larger picture of what’s happening to bats in the northern part of the state, according to Morris. Preliminary data from sampling with mist nets in summer also show that fewer bats are being caught, she said.

 

There is good news. Some bats are surviving for years at affected sites, and some species, including the federally endangered gray bat, don’t appear to be developing white-nose, though they carry the fungus.

 

Also, scientists are working to combat white-nose, including an effort involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Georgia State University researchers testing a bacterium aimed at inhibiting growth of the fungus.

 

DNR is following a response plan that outlines steps for raising awareness of the disease, combating its spread, reporting and analyzing bats, and managing related natural resources. DNR has increased surveys to better assess bat populations and worked with cavers to spread the word about white-nose, reduce trips in Georgia caves and follow disinfectant protocols for clothes and gear. Only about 15 percent of Georgia’s caves are on state-managed lands. Learn more at www.georgiawildlife.com/WNS.

 

DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section works daily to conserve Georgia’s endangered and other wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. The agency depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and contributions for this vital work.

 

Georgians can provide help conserve native bats and other wildlife species and rare plants through buying or renewing a DNR eagle or hummingbird license plate. These tags cost only $25 more than a standard plate, and most of the fee from sales and renewals is dedicated to nongame conservation.

 

Upgrade to a wild tag for only $25! Details at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/support and www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport.

Why Bats Matter

The loss of bats can contribute to widespread ecological effects. Bats help:

  • Control insects: A little brown bat can eat its weight in insects in a night; one million bats can consume nearly 700 tons a year. Bats save corn farmers worldwide an estimated $1 billion per year in crop damages. This natural pest control also reduces pesticide use.
  • Enrich cave ecosystems: Nutrient-packed guano from cave-roosting bats qualify them as keystone species in these habitats.
  • Feed other animals: Wildlife varying from owls to raccoons prey on bats.
  • Pollinate plants and disperse seeds: More than 300 species of fruit, including mangoes, depend on bats for pollination. Bats are critical to seed dispersal in tropical forests.
  • Benefit science: Research on bats has led to developments in sonar, vaccines and other areas.
  • Serve as indicator species: Population changes can indicate broader ecological issues such as the loss of forest habitat.

Sources include: Bat Conservation International, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service


Love, Erin Donates Barn Owl To Reflection Riding

U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Conducts 5-Year Status Reviews Of 35 Southeastern Species

Skull Island Campground Reopens After Complete Renovation


Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center will welcome the organization donating a baby Barn Owl to the nature center this Saturday, at 1 p.m. The owl is being donated by Love, Erin, based ... (click for more)

As part of the process mandated by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct five-year status reviews of 35 endangered or threatened fish, wildlife, and ... (click for more)

Vista Recreation (formerly RRM) in a partnership agreement with TVA, announces the reopening of Skull Island Campground after years of closure due to deferred maintenance issues. Skull Island ... (click for more)



Outdoors

Love, Erin Donates Barn Owl To Reflection Riding

Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center will welcome the organization donating a baby Barn Owl to the nature center this Saturday, at 1 p.m. The owl is being donated by Love, Erin, based in Asheville, N.C. The baby barn owl, whose name will be unveiled on Saturday, will be present on Saturday for a limited time for pictures. “We were in the process of acquiring a barn ... (click for more)

U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Conducts 5-Year Status Reviews Of 35 Southeastern Species

As part of the process mandated by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct five-year status reviews of 35 endangered or threatened fish, wildlife, and plants. These species are found primarily in the Southeastern United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but are also known to occur in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Woman Gets 6-Year Suspended Sentence In 2018 Stabbing Death Of George Deramus

A woman charged in the stabbing death of 60-year-old George Deramus pleaded guilty on Monday morning to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Tavowia Hinton, who was 49 at the time of the Dec. 2, 2018, incident, had been facing a charge of second-degree murder. She was given a six-year prison sentence, but it was suspended. Ms. Hinton was directed not to have any contact ... (click for more)

Florida Man Says Deal Should Go Through To Buy 6,161 Acres In Hamilton, Sequatchie Counties From Pattens

A Florida man has filed suit in Federal Court, saying he had a deal to buy 6,160 acres in Hamilton and Sequatchie counties from Bryan and Cartter Patten, but they are backing out of the deal. C. Lee Eggert, of Brandon, Fla., said the agreed purchase price was over $11.6 million. He acknowledged that he was being furnished the money by a logging company, Consolidated Timberlands. ... (click for more)

Opinion

Election Integrity

I find the complaints about the recent win by Weston Wamp in the Hamilton County mayor’s primary to be interesting and amusing. Interesting because of the attempt by some to portray his win as the result of some kind of nefarious manipulation by a group of clergy to get Black voters to crossover and vote for Wamp. Also interesting because for weeks it was assumed by the local political ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: "Miss Mary Frances"

I have written dozens of obituaries in my life and eulogized many people. I am not ashamed to admit I think I am good at it and I am flattered when a friend’s family approaches me to ask for my help. I have written a number of obituaries on those who are still alive who want to “proof-read” what will be turned into the funeral home and I have honored death-bed requests that this ... (click for more)