Over the winter, dozens of biologists and cavers searched over 30 Alabama caves for signs of White Nose Syndrome, an illness that has killed over a million bats in the eastern US. Dozens of us quietly crept into caves where colonies of bats hibernate to take a peek at their noses. We were looking for the tell-tale white fuzz on the noses of bats, or even a white fuzz on other parts of their bodies. We also kept an eye out for bats that were flying around in the middle of the winter, or large numbers of dead bats near cave entrances. Cave explorers also helped with the effort by keeping an eye out for WNS symptoms while visiting some of the state’s 4,000 caves.
“Good news! No WNS was found this winter in any of the caves surveyed by any of our group,” says Keith Hudson, a wildlife biologist with the Alabama Wildlife and Fisheries and the Alabama Bat Working Group Survey Coordinator. “It appears Alabama has dodged the WNS bullet, at least for one more hibernating season.”
There are newly confirmed cases of WNS this year in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana, but luckily WNS did not move as far south during the winter of 2010 and 2011 as many biologists expected.
Please continue to help us keep an eye out for anything suspicious with bat colonies in your area. Over the summer, if you notice that the numbers of bats coming out of caves is greatly reduced, let us know! But for now, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that our bats are still healthy!