HARRISON (AGFC) —The fungus associated with White-nose Syndrome was recently confirmed on a tricolored bat found in Boone County.
According to Blake Sasse, nongame mammal program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, a rural resident’s dog brought the dead bat to the owner’s porch in February, 2015. The bat was submitted to the Arkansas Department of Health for rabies testing. Although not rabid, this bat and others were later sent to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia to look for evidence of White-nose Syndrome, where it tested positive.
“This is the first time the fungus has been documented in Boone County, but since it has previously been observed in three nearby counties, it isn’t a surprise,” Sasse said. “Unfortunately, WNS or the fungus that causes it has now been found in 12 Arkansas counties. I expect that as we conduct cave bat surveys this winter we will see populations begin to fall in some of the seven Arkansas species susceptible to WNS.”
WNS is not transmittable to humans and is only known to affect cave-hibernating bats. The fungus thrives in cold, humid environments and invades the skin of bats, disrupting their hibernation and depleting their fat stores. The disease has killed more than six million bats in North America since it was discovered in New York in 2007. In some states, winter bat numbers have declined by more than 90 percent. Since it was first detected, WNS has been confirmed in 26 states and five Canadian provinces. The fungus has been detected in four additional states.
“There is no cure for white-nose syndrome, “said Jeremy Coleman, National White-nose Syndrome Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “But researchers are studying several potential treatments that show promise for controlling the fungus and reducing impacts of the disease on bats.” These include bacteria and fungi that inhibit the growth of the fungus associated with WNS, environmental manipulations, genetic modifications to reduce the virulence of the fungus, vaccines and other biologically based anti-fungal compounds.