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History & Distribution
In February 2006, 40 miles west of Albany, NY, a caver observed and photographed bats with a white substance on their muzzles. He also noticed several dead bats in the cave. The following winter, the New York Department of Conservation documented approximately 10,000 dead and dying bats in 4 caves in New York. Many of these bats had the white substance on their muzzles and the condition became known as white-nose syndrome.
Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) with white-nose syndrome, New York
Since it's identification in New York, WNS has been documented in 14 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Although WNS currently appears to be an exotic disease in North America, a similar condition associated with a genetically identical fungus has been observed in bats in several European countries without an associated large number of bat mortalities. Researchers are working to understand why the fungus is so lethal to bats in North America, but apparently not in Europe.
At the time of this writing (July 2010), WNS has not yet been identified in Michigan. However, due to the documented bat-to-bat geographic spread of the disease and the presence of bat hibernacula in Michigan, it seems likely to appear here.
DNRE staff are collaborating with other state, federal and local government officials, as well as university researchers and bat conservation groups, to develop a WNS response plan to postpone arrival of the disease as long as possible and minimize its impact.
Map of WNS Occurence in North America