There is a very real danger facing Maryland bats each winter: Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the cause of the fatal white-nose syndrome.
This cold-loving fungus attacks bats while they hibernate by growing on and into their skin. As a result, they constantly wake up and groom themselves, resulting in them burning up their fat reserves long before winter is over. Trying to survive, bats may even fly off looking for food and die in the process.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates white-nose syndrome response and works closely with Canadian counterparts to share research and results. Since the discovery of the fungus, seven North American, one Asian, and 13 European species have been confirmed with diagnostic symptoms. Surprisingly, some species have tested positive for the fungus, yet show no diagnostic signs of the disease. Of these species, five occur in North America, five in Asia and two in Europe.
Natural Resources Ecologist Dan Feller was the first to find bats with white-nose in Maryland during the winter of 2009-2010. As seen in other northeastern states, Feller documented a devastating overall decline of 81 percent in the state’s hibernating population over the past five years.
For more information about wildlife and forestry, contact the NASF Forest Resources Management committee.