White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging fungal disease that is known to affect 7 species of cave-hibernating bats in eastern North America. The disease is named for the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other areas of exposed skin of hibernating bats. WNS is caused by a fungus known as Pseudogymnoascus destructans(formerly Geomyces destructans), and has killed more than 5.7 million bats in North America. Growth of the fungus on the bats causes increased arousal, leading to the increased depletion of crucial fat reserves, and eventually causing the bats to die of starvation or dehydration. WNS is so devastating that many hibernacula, locations where bats congregate to hibernate, affected by WNS have experienced 90% to 100% declines. As of early 2015, WNS has not been detected in Florida’s caves, nor has the fungus associated with the disease. Experts believe that the fungus could reach Florida eventually, and action is underway to prevent the spread of the fungus into Florida’s caves. There are three species of bats that roost in Florida’s caves during the winter and are known to be impacted by WNS and the fungus associated with the disease: the tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), Southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius), and gray bat (Myotis grisescens).
You can help prevent the spread of WNS by following these tips:
- Never wear shoes or clothing that has been in a cave, mine, or other location where bats hibernate outside of Florida into a Florida cave.
- Recreational cavers should avoid using gear that was used in caves outside of Florida in Florida’s caves, unless it has been properly decontaminated following the decontamination guidelines set by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Do not disturb hibernating bats.
Bat Mortality Reporting
The FWC is interested in finding out more about the health of bats in Florida. Please help us monitor bat populations in Florida for possible cases of white-nose syndrome (WNS). Although WNS has not been detected in Florida as of early 2015, the FWC is interested in any reports about sick and dying bats. Anyone in Florida who finds bats that appear sick, are acting in an unusual manner or are dead is asked to report that information to MyFWC.com/BatMortality.
For the most current map depicting the spread of WNS, please visit whitenosesyndrome.org.