The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has received results from specimens sent for analysis to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and the news is not good.
The results confirm the presence of the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome in bats from two caves in Virginia.
While conducting winter surveys of caves where bats hibernate, known as hibernacula, biologists and volunteers from VDGIF, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Speleological Survey discovered bats that showed signs of WNS in Breathing Cave in Bath County. Soon after, similar clinical signs were found in bats in Clover Hollow Cave in Giles County.
The impact of white-nose syndrome on bat populations could be highly significant if the condition cannot be controlled and continues to spread. Some WNS caves in New York have experienced declines of more than 90 percent of the bat populations.
Losses in bat populations of this magnitude will cause a substantial ripple effect due to the important role that bats play as insect feeders, as a food source for other animals (hawks, owls, raccoons, skunks, and other animals that prey on bats) and with their contributions to cave ecosystems.
Given these recent findings, VDGIF is emphasizing the request it made last month for recreational cavers to refrain from entering caves. The department has closed the caves on its wildlife management areas.
Because of the potential impact of WNS, the VDGIF urges cavers and cave owners to help Virginia’s bat populations by reducing cave traffic until more is learned about this syndrome.
For more information about white-nose syndrome and about the bats of Virginia, click on the link below.