White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that affects hibernating bats, has been confirmed for the first time in a western long-eared bat (Myotis evotis) in King County, Washington. This brings the total number of bat species confirmed with the deadly fungal disease in North America to 12.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) received the dead bat in early March from wildlife rehabilitator, Barbara Ogaard, who specializes in rescuing bats in the Seattle area. Samples were sent to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI for testing, where it was confirmed the bat had white-nose syndrome.
“Confirming another species with white-nose syndrome is concerning, but something we’ve anticipated,” said Abby Tobin, white-nose syndrome coordinator for WDFW. “We are grateful for the public’s involvement in reporting sick or dead bats, as it helps us monitor bat populations and track the spread of this catastrophic disease in Washington.”
White-nose syndrome has also been confirmed for the first time in Washington outside of King County. In early March, a Pierce County resident found a dead little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) on a window and reported it to WDFW. After sending the bat to USGS National Wildlife Health Center for testing, it was confirmed the bat had white-nose syndrome.
First seen in North America in 2006 in eastern New York, white-nose syndrome has killed millions of hibernating bats in eastern North America and has now spread to 33 states and seven Canadian provinces. See a map of the spread of white-nose syndrome at https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/static-spread-map/april-23-2019.
The disease is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which invades hibernating bats’ skin and causes damage, especially to delicate wing tissue, and physiologic imbalances that can lead to disturbed hibernation, depleted fat reserves, dehydration, and death.
The fungal disease is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock, or other wildlife.
Even though the fungus is believed to be primarily transferred from bat-to-bat contact, the fungus can be inadvertently spread by humans. People can carry fungal spores on clothing, shoes, or recreation equipment that comes into contact with the fungus.
White-nose syndrome was first confirmed in Washington in March 2016. Over the last three years, WDFW has collaborated with partners to collect samples from bats and the areas where they live. This proactive surveillance work has helped WDFW detect the presence of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in a variety of locations in King and Lewis counties, including Mount Rainier National Park, and now, in Pierce County. For more information on these detections visit https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/blog/white-nose-syndrome-fungus-detected-in-second-county-in-washington-state-2.
King County is the most affected area in Washington with 29 of the 30 confirmed cases of white-nose syndrome in three bat species. A timeline of fungus and white-nose syndrome detections in Washington is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/bats.
Washington state has 14 species of bats that benefit humans by consuming large quantities of insects that can impact forest health and commercial crops.
WDFW advises against handling animals that appear sick or are found dead. If you find sick or dead bats or notice bats exhibiting unusual behavior such as flying outside during the day or during freezing weather, please report your observation online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/bats.
To learn more about the disease and access the most updated decontamination protocols and other guidance documents, visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.