Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Bat disease not found in Crook County


July 18, 2019

Annual testing for white-nose syndrome, which decimated the population of northern long-eared bats across the nation a few years ago and caused it to be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, has found no trace of the disease in Crook County.

Wyoming Game & Fish has been monitoring for the presence of white-nose syndrome since the bat was classified as threatened. To do this, Game & Fish, along with other agencies, swab the bats annually for early detection of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which causes the disease that kills bats during hibernation.

The swabbing occurs in the bats’ winter boarding locations, known as hibernacula, and since 2017 has also taken place in spring by capturing bats at maternity roosts and other areas of high concentration.

The monitoring contributes to a national early detection program led by the National Wildlife Health Center. This year, bats were surveyed in nine counties in Wyoming.

No samples tested positive for the fungus in Crook County. Sheridan, Washakie, Big Horn, Fremont and Natrona also tested clear.

However, laboratory results came back as inconclusive from Niobrara County, suggesting the fungus may be present, and as positive for the second year in a row from a maternity roost in Goshen County.

“Given that inconclusive results were found for multiple bats and the proximity of Niobrara County to Goshen County and infected areas in South Dakota, we feel it is important to be proactive in our efforts to notify the public and minimize potential spread,” said Nichole Bjornlie, Game and Fish nongame mammal biologist in a press release.

“Bats can carry the fungus without showing symptoms of the disease, and there is typically a lag between the first detection of the fungus and the observation of the disease.” 

The USFWS originally proposed to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered in October, 2013, after white-nose syndrome led to a significant drop in species numbers. Local officials, however, spoke out against the listing when the only local public hearing in the nation was held in Crook County at the end of 2014.

Arguments against the listing included the potential negative impact that doing so would have on the timber industry, particularly if management restrictions are limited, and the economic impact on such industries as agriculture and mining.

Nevertheless, the northern long-eared bat was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2015, primarily thanks to the threat of white-nose syndrome, which devastated populations across the country. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also issued an interim special rule to eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements for landowners, land managers, government agencies and others within the bat’s range.

In parts of the country that are affected by white-nose syndrome, the interim rule exempted “take” of the bat through such activities as forest management, removal of the bats from human dwellings, research-related activities and tree removal projects, providing these activities protect known maternity roosts and hibernation caves. These measures are intended to protect the bats when they are most vulnerable, such as during hibernation and pup-rearing season.

According to Game & Fish, the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome can be transported by humans, though it has no effect on humans or pets. To help prevent the spread, clean your shoes and gear after visiting caves or other locations where bats are present, do not re-use gear that has been in a place affected by the syndrome in a place free of the fungus, check canopies and umbrellas for bats before packing up, stay out of closed mines and contact Game & Fish if you see a sick or dead bat.


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