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White-Nose Syndrome - Quebec

Bat with white muzzle characteristic of white nose syndromeWhite-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging disease affecting bats in North America. It was first discovered in 2006 in a cave near Albany, New York, and since then, it has spread throughout north-eastern United States and Canada. WNS is caused by a fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans that grows in hibernacula during winter. Bats affected by the fungus awake more frequently from hibernation, which quickly reduces their energy reserves and lead them to die of exhaustion. Since its emergence in North America, WNS has killed between 5,7 and 6,7 million bats in the north-eastern U.S. and Canada.

 

The first occurrence of WNS in the province of Quebec was confirmed in March 2010 at the Caverne Laflèche in the Outaouais region. In 2013, WNS was documented throughout the west of the province, and was also found in Chibougamau in the North. No observation of WNS has yet been reported in the regions of Bas-Saint-Laurent, Côte-Nord, and Gaspésie. The population declines have been drastic in several hibernacula in the province that sheltered populations of thousands of bats during the winter. Today, there are on average less than thirty bats per site and, in some cases, they have all disappeared.

 

The Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs (MDDEFP) is very concerned about the consequences of WNS on bat populations. Since the discovery of WNS in United-States, the MDDEFP has been monitoring bat hibernacula to evaluate spring mortality and document the spread of the disease throughout the province. Communication tools and a guide to biosecurity and decontamination measures when visiting caves or mines have been produced to help slow the spread of WNS and increase public awareness about this issue. Acoustic surveys of bats and population counts at maternal colonies are also conducted during the summer to better monitor population trends.

 

The MDDEFP is seeking the collaboration of citizens to monitor bat population in the province. Citizens are invited to report observations of day-flying or dead bats between November and May by calling 1 877 346-6763. The public is also asked to help the MDDEFP to locate maternal colonies of bats during summer by filling a form available at http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/faune/sante-maladies/syndrome-chauve-souris.htm. The ministry is also advising the public not to touch bats, as a small percentage may carry rabies.

 

For more information about bats and the disease in Quebec please check the following website:
MDDEFP
http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/faune/sante-maladies/syndrome-chauve-souris.htm.