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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

Dec. 27, 2012

White-nose Syndrome continues to decimate bat populations

White-nose Syndrome has devastated bat populations across the eastern United States during the past five years, causing the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century in North America, according to biologists. White-nose Syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats since it was discovered in a single New York cave in February 2006.

White-nose syndrome has not yet been detected in South Carolina, but wildlife biologists believe it is only a matter of time before the fungal scourge arrives in the Palmetto State, according to Mary Bunch, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife biologist based in Clemson.

"Many of the bats found in Upstate South Carolina, such as little brown, big brown, small-footed, northern long-eared, and pipistrelles, are the same species vulnerable to white-nose syndrome," said Bunch. "It is likely that we'll see WNS reach South Carolina's bats. There's no treatment or cure for WNS yet."  Rafinesque’s big-eared bats, a rare bat of the mountains and coastal plains, hasn’t been shown to be harmed by the fungus.

A cold-loving white fungus typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats, White-nose Syndrome causes bats to awaken more often during hibernation and use up the stored fat reserves that are needed to get them through the winter. Infected bats often emerge too soon from hibernation and are often seen flying around in midwinter. The fungus also damages the wing membranes.  These bats become dehydrated and malnourished and many afflicted bats die.

If anyone discovers bats dying in large numbers (six or more, not single bats) in the late winter or early spring, they are asked to report them to the nearest DNR regional office, in Columbia, Charleston, Florence or Clemson. Bunch emphasized that it is not unusual to see healthy bats flying during the winter, especially on warm days, so flight in winter doesn’t always mean WNS is involved.

Find out more by checking the White-nose syndrome story map.

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