White Nosed Syndrome Summary  

TOPIC: White Nosed Syndrome summary

== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Sun, Feb 3 2008 5:40 pm
From: Edward Frank

Forwarded Message:  Dear caver/ outdoor enthusiast, There has been some sad and important news in the world of caving this winter. Many bats in the Northeastern United States have been killed by what is being called White Nosed Syndrome or WNS. Biologists and ecologists from the NY Dept of Environmental Conservation as well as the National Speleological Society (NSS) are currently performing studies into the reasons for a recent spread of the syndrome in caves near upstate New York. Last month, cavers in Morris Cave, VT noticed a large population of bats killed by WNS. This cave is over 110 km away from the nearest known cases, thus a concern for the distance in which it is spreading. It is possible that the cause of the spread is from cavers not cleaning/ washing their gear after use in possibly infected caves, however, the actual cause of the spread is unknown. The NSS is looking into the reason for the spread and trying to protect the remaining caves in the Northeast United States that host large populations of bats. Local caving organizations are asking all outdoor enthusiasts and cavers to report any case of WNS on bats, inside or outside of caves, to The Loyalhanna Grotto at loyalhannagrotto@yahoo.com 

f you would like more information on recognizing White Nosed Syndrome or WNS, you can visit the following websites: The NY - Dept. of Environmental Conservation www.dec.ny.gov/press/41621.html  

Vermont Fish and Wildlife www.vtfishandwildlife.com/detail.cfm?agency__ID=1273  

Bat Management and Conservation www.batmanagement.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1199773599/0#7

 Sincerely, Douglas Fulton, Chairperson, Loyalhanna Grotto

== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Sun, Feb 3 2008 8:13 pm
From: James Parton


I remember seeing cute little pipistrel bats in Linville caverns here
in WNC last summer. They all looked healthy.

James P.

== 3 of 3 ==
Date: Sun, Feb 3 2008 8:36 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


Many of the bat species live outside in the summer in hollow trees, in crevices in the bark, in peoples attics, in bat shelters, They fly around lakes, and campfires, as well as caves, and mines. We have plenty of opportunity to see them once the weather warms. If one stops where you can see it, being able to tell by visual signs that the bat had this ailment, it would be useful information to the bat researchers looking at the spread of the disease. If encountered in the hibernating state - do not disturb them. Frequent disturbance uses up their fat reserves and they may not survive the winter. A brief light on them is not generally bather them. The signs of this disease are:

The most obvious symptom involved in the die-off is a white fungus encircling the noses of some, but not all, of the bats. Called "white nose syndrome," the fungus is believed to be associated with the problem, but it may not necessarily contribute to the actual cause of death. It appears that the impacted bats deplete their fat reserves months before they would normally emerge from hibernation, and die as a result. The one website reports: "Most bat researchers would agree that this is the gravest threat to bats they have ever seen."

Currently the outbreak is known only from NY and VT but it could be spreading elsewhere, and they need to know this information.

Ed Frank

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" --Albert Einstein

TOPIC: White Nosed Syndrome summary

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Sun, Feb 3 2008 8:54 pm
From: Mollie Matteson


It would be of interest to me hear your thoughts/ knowledge regarding
bats' use of/need for late successional and old-growth forest, and
the impacts of logging on them--in particular the federally listed
Indiana bat.

The Center for Biological Diversity, for which I now work, sent a
letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service last week, requesting that
it use its authority to close all hibernacula harboring endangered
bat species in the East to recreational use until the cause of the
white-nose syndrome is understood and can be addressed. The letter
also asked that the FWS suspend all incidental take permits for
endangered bats on federal lands--this could affect logging projects
on national forests, and possibly other activities. While the WNS is
showing up in hibernating bats, their populations may be so
drastically affected by winter's end that we may not be able to
afford to lose any additional bats for any reason, including to
summer time mortality. CBD will continue to monitor the actions of
the feds and the state fish and wildlife agencies to make sure all
that can possibly be done, is done, to address this terrible threat.

Mollie Matteson

P.S. If you wish to contact me at work about this matter, my email is
, and work phone is 802-434-2388.
PO Box 551
37 Hapgood Lane
Richmond, VT 05477

"The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe."
--Joanna Macy

== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Sun, Feb 3 2008 9:25 pm

While working at Grand Canyon NP, I recall presentations put on by wildlife biologists where it was shown that bats would commonly inhabit the space created on large standing dead ponderosa pines by bark shifting/breaking with lost of adhesion to summerwood. From there, they detailed their success in creating bat habitat by 'installing' bark pieces with appropriate dimensions, etc. for bat habitation.
I know that the East doesn't have large o-g ponderosa pines, but I'll bet the bats are just as happy with eastern species old enough to have created the right sized interstitial spaces...
-Don Bertolette


TOPIC: White Nosed Syndrome summary

== 1 of 4 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 6:48 am
From: Beth Koebel

Mollie and Don B,

I have heard that bats "sleep" under the bark of Carya
ovata and C. laciniosa, Shagbark and Shellbark
Hickories respectively.


== 2 of 4 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 6:52 am
From: "William Morse"

yes, a favorite place for the endangered Indiana Bat. Travis

== 3 of 4 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 7:55 am
From: dbhguru@comcast.net


I have read that India Brown Bats like hollowed sycamores, at least in the Mid-west. I wouldn't be surprised if bats didn't make use of sycamores in the Northeast as well.


== 4 of 4 ==
Date: Mon, Feb 4 2008 8:25 am

Every since Hatfield, I've had a sense of reverence for those "hallowed" sycamores!

TOPIC: White Nosed Syndrome summary

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Wed, Feb 6 2008 7:47 pm
From: "Edward Frank"

The message below has been sent by the New Jersey Department of
Environmental Protection.

(O8/08) TRENTON * Amid mounting concern over the unexplained deaths of
thousands of hibernating bats in New York and Vermont, Department of
Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today advised
the public to avoid entering any caves and mines that might harbor the
creatures until wildlife experts know more about the problem.

"We have not yet found any evidence of disease among New Jersey's
wintering bat populations," Commissioner Jackson said. "But until
experts fully understand how and why bats in other states are dying,
and whether it's possible for people to carry this mysterious illness
from one cave to another, it is best to take precautions and keep out
of places in which they hibernate."

Hikers, photographers and spelunkers are among those who frequent
abandoned mines, caves and other locations that likely shelter
hibernating bats.

Wildlife officials are calling the illness "white nose syndrome"
because the most obvious symptom is a white fungus that forms around
the noses of some, but not all, of the afflicted bats. Researchers do
not yet know if the fungus actually causes death, but they have
observed that bats with white nose syndrome deplete their fat reserves
months before they would normally emerge from hibernation, and die as
a result.

In the coming weeks, New Jersey biologists will survey the state's
largest known hibernaculum to look for bats exhibiting symptoms of the
disease. To date, there is no information showing people have been
affected after exposure to the white fungus, so human-health
implications remain unknown.

Last year, in several caves near Albany, NY., up to 11,000 bats * more
than half of that area's wintering po pulation * were found dead, and
many showed symptoms of the mysterious disease. Biologists this year
are again seeing the white fungus on bats hibernating in New York and
southwest Vermont. Because bats migrate hundreds of miles to their
summer range, impacts to hibernating bats can have significant
implications for the species throughout the Northeast.

Bat biologists across the country are evaluating strategies to monitor
the presence of the disease and collect specimens for laboratory
analysis. To avoid the possibility of spreading the disease,
biologists are taking precautions, using sanitary clothing and
respirators when entering caves.

The affected species include the Indiana bat, listed as endangered in
New Jersey and nationwide. Wildlife experts report that little brown
bats are sustaining the largest number of deaths, along with northern
long-eared, eastern pipistrelle and other bat species using the same

Hibernating bats are particularly vulnerable to disease or disturbance
because they congregate in large numbers in caves and mines, forming
tight clusters of 300 per square foot in some locations. Of the tens
of thousands of bats known to hibernate in New Jersey, most occupy a
handful of abandoned mines.

Subject: Sinnett-Thorn CLOSURE
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2008 09:51:55 +0000


There is a bat disease with a 50-90% mortality rate that has been
found in NY (2 years ago) and recently, Vermont. Nobody knows how this
disease spreads. For more information on this disease, please read the
information below.

Sinnett-Thorn is host to the Virginia big-ear bat, an endangered bat
species, for both hibernation and nursery purposes. Until this disease
is no longer a problem, or we figure out that it is not spread though
caving activities, I am cancelling all trips in Sinnett-Thorn until
further notice. I hope to (plan to) open the cave next fall as
scheduled; please keep an eye on the website for the latest
information This is a preventative measure; no signs of the disease
have been observed in Sinnett.

The NSS is closing all its North East region cave preserves, though at
this time, the Trout caves are not closed.

I'm very sorry to do this, but would like to wait for more information
until permitting access again.

Please do not go about looking for this disease in other caves.

Consider avoiding caves with bat populations until we know more about
this. Frustrating, I know, but I hope a solution/explanation is found
soon and that this is just a temporary thing.

The caving community is taking steps to prevent the spread of this
disease, though the effectiveness of the procedures is untested and
unknown. Please read and follow the information listed below to help
slow down/eliminate the spread of this disease.

If you have any concerns or comments please let me know.

Thank you for your understanding, support, and cooperation.

Patricia A. Bingham
Manager, Sinnett-Thorn Mountain Cave

TOPIC: Bats- White Nose Syndromw

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Thurs, Mar 6 2008 9:21 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


I mentioned White Nose Syndrome in Bats a couple months ago. The issue was butchered by CBS news a couple days ago on their evening program. I thought I might pass on some comments made by the caving community. This in some ways parallels some of our tree research and conservation efforts.

I would read the bottom email first, paul d.

-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------
From: "Bill Shuman" <bshuman@harborsoftware.com>
To: various
Subject: [psc-cavers] NSS Responsibility and WNS
Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2008 17:00:53 +0000

NSS Officers and Directors,

I couldn't agree more with the comments of Steve Stokowski in a recent
email to fellow cavers (see below). There is nothing to connect cavers
with WNS. In fact, there is evidence suggesting that cavers are NOT
the cause or agent spreading the syndrome. While the actual cause of
this problem is still unknown, it is your job the make sure that
cavers do not become vilified by the public and the press. As Steve
said in his email "What cavers need NOW is leadership from the
officers and directors of the NSS. To date, they have been silent.
They should not be silent any longer. Cavers need the NSS leadership
to be the advocate for the sport of caving." I believe you should do
the following:

1. Work hard to support, both financially and logistically, the
scientific efforts to determine the actual cause of WNS.

2. Immediately start a publicity campaign to inform the press, public,
governmental agencies, and scientific community that no evidence has
implicated cavers as being part of the problem and that the caving
community is actively supporting it's quick resolution.

3. Do not close or gate NSS owned caves unnecessarily and without the
support of the NSS membership.

4. Work hard to preserve landowner relations during this crisis. The
NSS should take the lead in this effort.

If the NSS remains silent and does nothing then caving as a sport will
be permanently damaged. Many caves will be permanently closed
unnecessarily. As the organization that represents cavers and caving
is is your duty to act.

-Bill Shuman
NSS Member
Annapolis, MD

(Note: Please forward this to any caving lists.. thanks)

Steve Stokowski's Email:
The past performance of the TV and the press indicates that we should
not anticipate scholarship or even responsible journalism during the
CBS Evening News. In fact, we should expect a tabloid-style
speculation that will have a negative impact on caving for years and
decades to come.
We, as cavers, should be aware that after over 1 year of scientific
investigation, there are no identified infectious agents in the bats.
There are no significant concentrations of poisons or pollutants in
the dead bats. The fungal growths on the muzzles of the bats, the
basic criteria for identifying affected bat colonies, do not result in
bat infections or bat deaths. I am not saying, nor should you, that
there are not dead bats and that there are not thousands of missing
bats that are probably dead. However, the bats contain no pathogens,
infectious agents, symptoms of infections, pollutants, or other
reasons for their death. There is no WNS infection of bats. This is
not an infection by any scientific measure.
What is identified as wrong with the bats is that they have NO body
fat in February. There is no identified reason why the bats have no
body fat. Without body fat in February, the bats will starve to death.
There is not anything that can be done about it, except to feed the
bats, as was done with one bat last year. It lived, the effort was
effective, but isn't statistically valid.
Will cave closures save the small furry creatures? No. Why? Hailes
Cave in NY, the nexus of WNS with about 14,000 missing bats and about
600 confirmed deaths, has been closed year-round to cavers for
decades; Boston Grotto cavers have not been in this cave since 1970,
if not earlier. The closure of Hailes has not protected bats.
The cave-closure reaction to the WNS issue is affecting cavers. It is
extremely bad for sport caving. I predict that cavers will be
PERMANENTLY locked out of dozens of caves, regardless of the outcome of
WNS. Look at what is happening in WV, where there are 44 WNS-closed
caves, while the closest WNS-affected bats are over 450 miles away.
Statements in the press about WNS are turning public opinion against
cavers. Why? Because of the irresponsible statements of biologic
professionals to the press that cavers are somehow responsible for
WNS. To quote Al Hicks, the small mammal specialist of the NYDEC, in a
NY Times article carried by the AP across the country, "Hicks said it
is possible that a cave explorer introduced the problem in the
Albany-area caves and that it spread from there. ''It could have been
some caver in Tanzania with a little mud on his boot and a week later
he's in a cave in New York,'' he said." Cavers, and not just cavers in
the northeast, but cavers around the world, are being cast as the bad
guys. We being made the pariahs of environmental conservation. Being
made a pariah is more than annoying, it is infuriating and it stinks.
What cavers need NOW is leadership from the officers and directors of
the NSS. To date, they have been silent. They should not be silent any
longer. Cavers need the NSS leadership to be the advocate for the
sport of caving. I recommend that you send emails to all of the NSS
officers that you know, and especially to those who should know you.
Their email addresses are on this page:
http://www.caves.org/nss-business/bog/Current%20Personnel.pdf Tell
Bill, Ray, Gordon, Peri, Cheryl, Jim, Doug, Linda, Ted, Gary, Jay,
Lee, John, Bill, Gary, Kevin, and Debra to start advocating for the
rights of cavers.
Steve Stokowski
NSS 14425
Fellow, NSS

TOPIC: Bats- White Nose Syndromw

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Fri, Mar 7 2008 6:15 pm
From: JamesRobertSmith

The selfishness of people never fails to amaze me. If there's a
probability that caving by humans is the vector for a disease that
might end up sending another species to extinction, then find other
places where you can engage in your silly little hobby. If I thought
that my hiking into a forest would kill it, I'd find another place to

== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Fri, Mar 7 2008 7:28 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


Looking at all of the research, and as a member of the National Seleological Society for 27 years, it is clear that the vector for the disease is not cavers. Any adverse comment that appears anywhere about caves or cavers results in the closure of caves across wide areas. As is noted there are many caves closed in WV hundreds of miles away from the nearest outbreak. It is the caving community that has fought to preserve these caves from casual destruction as part of limestone operations. It is cavers who have prevented land owners from simply blocking entrances shut to prevent access. This would have resulted in the loss of the cave habitat for bats and other troglophile species. It is cavers who spend their own money to gate caves to preserve hibernaculumns for endangered species like the Indiana Bat. It is cavers that have fought to get cave conservation laws passed regarding the trade in speleothems and killing of bat colonies. But implausible speculation made by idiotic newscasters, based on "sound bites" taken out of context is in the process of destroying much of the goodwill and conservation efforts built up over years of hard work. In spite of people attending caving get togethers across the country and visiting caves around the country, the only caves affected are a few in the northeast. It has not been spread to anywhere else. Even caves closed to cavers have been affected by the syndrome.

Would you really support closing all of the national forests to hiking because some newscaster said that hikers were killing the hemlocks? Especially when you know the cause is the HWA? The effects are much worse for cavers. People are uncomfortable with the ideas of caves and bats to begin with, then they have some excuse to overreact and wham... people do not chase hemlock trees with tennis rackets but they do bats, because they are afraid of a 1 ounce animal that purrs when you hold it.

So your reaction is but one of the extreme ends that people have with respect to caves and bats, and in my opinion entirely inappropriate. The people in question are simply asking for a reasoned response to the White Nose Syndrome outbreak in the NE, as opposed to a Chicken Little approach of the sky is falling by people who should have a clue about reality. If the evidence supported the concept that cavers were spreading the disease, these same people would be calling for closure of these caves and gating of others to preserve the bat populations. You can argue that this is simply being cautious since we do not know what is causing these deaths, I counter that we can tell that some things are not causing the problem.

The fungus is likely just a response growing on the dead or dying bats,rather than a cause of the problem. If bat colonies are repeatedly disturbed over the winter they will burn up too much of their fat reserves to be able to over winter successfully. they effects are very similar to those evidenced in the WNS deaths - there are no fat reserves left in the dead bats. The question then becomes what is causing this? Are the bats being disturbed in the winter - in some caves maybe - that is why the caving communities close caves in the winter during the hibernation periods in caves containing significant bat colonies. Some of the effected caves are in caves gated to prevent access, so that is not the most likely cause. Is something preventing the bats from feeding properly before hibernation? Perhaps there were false warm periods that caused the bats to awaken early before there were enough insects to feed them. Then death resulted when they went back to sleep? There are many possibilities, but a vector transmitted by the caving community does not appear to be one of them.

White nose syndrome is a poorly understood condition associated with the deaths of thousands of bats. The condition, named for a distinctive ring of fungal growth around the muzzles of many affected animals, was first identified in several caves near Albany, New York in January, 2007. The fungus involved in white nose syndrome has been identified as belonging to the genus Fusarium, usually associated with plants. The fungal growth may be an opportunistic infection, rather than the actual cause of the condition. A loss of winter fat stores[1], pneumonia,[2] and the disruption of hibernation and feeding cycles caused by warm and variable winter weather[3] have all been suggested as causes or contributing factors. In some cases, access to caves is being closed entirely.[3] Despite these efforts, the spread of the disease to the Aeolus Cave, New England's largest hibernaculum, which has had limited human access since 2004, "complicates" the theory that human activity is contributing to the condition.[4]

[1] Unidentified Ailment Threatens Bat Populations (pdf). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2008-02-14).
[2} Barid, Joel Banner. "Bat deaths defy diagnosis", Burlington Free Press, 2008-02-02. Retrieved on 2008-02-14.
[3] a b Munger, Edward, Jr.. "Group asking cavers to keep out", Daily Gazette, 2008-02-14. Retrieved on 2008-02-14.
[4] ^ Waller, John. "Disease in Dorset bat cave", Manchester Journal, 2008-02-20. Retrieved on 2008-02-20.

[5] White Nosed Syndrome Website -U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/mammals/inba/BatAilment.html
[6] Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, Indiana State University. http://www.indstate.edu/ecology/centers/bat.htm
[7] Fungus serious threat to NE bats (January 7, 2007) http://www.forums.caves.org/viewtopic.php?f=31&p=50130

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not call for closure of caves to the caving community. Their statement reads:

Message to Cavers
The Service applauds the caving community's strong conservation ethic and long-time support of bat conservation efforts, and we ask for your continued cooperation and assistance as we address white-nose syndrome. It is more important than ever that cavers continue to observe all existing seasonal cave closures at known Indiana bat hibernacula, and when possible, to avoid caves or passages of caves containing large hibernating populations of any bat species. The Service is not encouraging individual cavers or caving groups to systematically search for bats with white-nose syndrome in caves or mines. If, while caving this winter, you observe a hibernating bat with a white muzzle or other odd white, fungus-like patches, please follow the interim guidelines below.
a.. Do not touch any bats (living or dead), especially those with a white muzzle/nose.
b.. If you have a camera with you, please take a few photographs of the potentially affected bat(s).
c.. Exit the cave immediately, avoiding contact with other bats, and please do not enter any other caves prior to reporting your potential WNS observations to your state fish and wildlife agency or your nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Office.
d.. Anyone who observes any unusual numbers of bats outside during cold weather, especially near a cave or mine where bats hibernate, is asked to report those observations as well. An increased number of bats flying outside and increased reports of dead bats in the vicinity of hibernacula have been observed in affected areas in the Northeast.
[8] Latest Updates, calendar of events, and additional links from The National Speleological Society: White Nose Syndrome - A major problem for both bats and the caving community. http://www.caves.org/grotto/dcg/white-nose.html

So I guess my main point is that the possibility that a human vector is the cause of the problem is negligible. And that they are being prevented from participating in their "hobby" by misguided officials and other members of the landowner community as a result of bad reporting by the media. As for hobby being a dismissive term, I want to point out that virtually all of the mapping of cave systems in this country, all of the dye tracing to define underground aquifers, almost all of the geological studies to look at karst processes, almost all of the biological studies of the cavern ecosystems and cave species are driven, paid for, and implemented by people participating in their hobby. There is basically little or no funding for cave research, and it is being paid for out of the cavers pockets, so it is unfair to vilify the caving community on the basis of a a few sound bites taken out of context. (tree researchers are dripping with money when compared to cavers.)

Edward Frank