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White-Nose Syndrome - Ontario

Bat with white muzzle characteristic of white nose syndrome The first occurrence of white nose syndrome in bats in Ontario has been confirmed in the Bancroft-Minden area, about 200 km west of Ottawa. There is no associated human health risk; however the syndrome has been linked to the deaths of a number of bats in Ontario and has had devastating effects on bat populations in hibernacula in the eastern US.


The Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC)  is working with The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to monitor caves and abandoned mines where bats hibernate and identify any further occurrences.


White nose syndrome is a new condition that was first recognized in bats in New York State in the winter of 2006. The name of the disease refers to a ring of white fungus around the muzzles and elsewhere on the bodies of affected bats. The cause of this disease is not fully understood, but it is associated with the growth on the bats of a particular species of fungus: Geomyces destructans which occurs during hibernation. Bat with spot of fungal growth on nose and smaller spots on wing folds


The disease, which was first discovered four years ago in a cave near Albany, New York, has been associated with the death of more than one million bats in the eastern U.S.


 "It's a very significant threat," said John Dungavell, a wildlife health policy advisor with Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources. Dungavell said the disease may be transferred by physical contact among the bats, as well as carried by humans to various hibernation sites. Dungavell said the number of bats found in Ontario with white-nose syndrome is still very small. However, the impact of the disease and how quickly it spreads can't be underestimated. Within 2 years, a site in New York, with the largest colony of Little Brown Bats in the world, dwindled from 200,000 to just 3000 bats.


 The fungus Geomyces destructans collected from an affected bat "In terms of assessing the impact here in Canada, we have to look to the U.S.," said Dungavell, adding the mortality rate in the U.S. has been 80 to 99 per cent amongst infected bat caves. Dungavell stressed the importance of bats to wildlife diversity, as they contribute to insect population management.


CCWHC and MNR encourage the public to stay away from caves and to report any unusual bat mortality by calling 1-866-673-4781. The ministry is also advising the public not to touch any bats, as a small percentage carry rabies.

 

For more information about the disease in Ontario, please check the following websites.


Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources WNS Update Page:


http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/278166.html


To learn more about White Nose Syndrome in general, please consult the following:


National Speleological Society
PDF http://www.caves.org/WNS/WNS%20Brochure%20March%202010%20Final.pdf


National Wildlife Health Centre, USGS
PDF http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/fact_sheets/pdfs/2009-3058_investigating_wns.pdf