Double Springs, Alabama (March 27, 2014) — The U.S. Forest Service has discovered White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) in two bats collected recently in the Bankhead National Forest. The bats, which tested positive for WNS, were found in Armstrong and Backwards-Confusion Caves on the Bankhead National Forest. The specimens represent the first confirmed cases of WNS for Lawrence County, Alabama.
White-Nose Syndrome is a disease characterized by fungal growth around the muzzle and wings of hibernating bats. First discovered in 2006, the disease spread rapidly from its origin in New York and is now as far south as Alabama and Georgia. WNS was confirmed in Alabama in 2012 with cases in Jackson County. The recent confirmed case in Lawrence County was the first discovery on national forests in Alabama.
WNS has caused the death of almost six million bats that are an important part of forest ecosystems, helping to control forest and agricultural insect pests.
According to Eric Schmeckpeper, acting district ranger of the Bankhead National Forest, the Forest Service issued a closure order for caves in all southern region national forests in May 2009 to proactively slow the spread of the fungus. The closure order remains active and includes caves in the Bankhead National Forest.
“There is no known risk to humans from White-Nose Syndrome,” said Allison Cochran, a wildlife biologist for the Bankhead National Forest. “It is possible that people can spread the disease by inadvertently transporting fungal spores on clothing, footwear and gear that has been used in caves that have been infected,” added Cochran. Decontamination of clothing, footwear and gear can reduce accidental transmission of fungal spores.
The Forest Service is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Department of Conservation, Alabama A&M University, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and others to reduce the spread of WNS. In the event that a member of the public spots an infected bat, they should notify the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources at 256-353-2634 with information about the location. Bats that may be encountered on the ground should remain undisturbed.
Visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org to learn more about this wildlife epidemic.
Bat Conservation Resources:
- SRS Website – http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/2014/01/23/slowing-the-spread-of-white-nose-syndrome-in-bats/
- White Nose Syndrome Website - www.whitenosesyndrome.org
Bats showing fungus on ears and wings, symptoms of White-Nose Syndrome, located in the Bankhead National Forest.
Tammy Freeman Truett
Public Affairs Staff Officer
U.S. Forest Service
2946 Chestnut Street
Montgomery, AL 36107
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