White-Nose Syndrome (or WNS) is a disease that is killing off millions of bats.


WNS was first discovered in the winter of 2006 and 2007 near Albany, New York. It is caused by a fungus called Geomyces destructans . The fungus seems to grow in cool damp places, which are the same conditions most bats hibernate in.

WNS spreads from bat to bat during hibernation, when their immune systems are at its weakest, and hundreds of thousands of bats roost together for warmth.

How it Affects BatsEdit

G. destructans causes a skin infection on a bat’s muzzle, ears, and wings. Scientists believe this infection irritates the bats, waking them from hibernation. When they wake up, they burn the fat they stored for the winter, and ultimately starve or freeze to death. The fungus also affects bats’ wings by destroying them, as well as disrupting life-functions that are regulated in the wings.

WNS symptoms also include abnormal behavior in bats, such as being active during the day, during the winter, and roosting closer to cave and old mine entrances instead of further down. As of January of 2012, over 5.5 million bats have died from WNS.

Areas AffectedEdit

WNS was first discovered near Albany, New York. It has continued to spread, and has now been reported in roughly 20 states, including some areas of eastern Canada.

  • NY, PA, MD, OK, MO, TN, NC, VA, WV, IN, OH, ME, NH, MA, CT, NJ, DE, KY, VT, IA
  • New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec

Species AffectedEdit

Nine bat species have been affected so far, and at least 16 other species are at potential risk. Extinctions are a real possibility.

  • Big Brown Bat
  • Little Brown Bat
  • Cave Myotis
  • South-Eastern Myotis
  • Tri-Colored Bat
  • Eastern Small-Footed Bat
  • Northern Long-Eared Bat
  • Endangered Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis)
  • Endangered Gray Myotis Bat (While no mortality has been observed in gray bats that can be linked to WNS, the confirmation that gray bats can be infected is cause for concern)

All though there are only nine species infected and 16 at risk, all bats are potentially at risk of contracting WNS.

Effects on HumansEdit

WNS has no known affect on humans, but contact with infected bats or bats in general is not advised, both for your health and the bat's health.

Bats have a positive impact on the farming industry; for example, a colony of about 150 Big Brown Bats can protect farmers from about 33 million rootworms. Decreases in bat populations are forcing farmers to use more pesticides to rid their crops of insects. This could cost the US agriculture system more than $3.7 billion per year.

For more questions about humans and bats, please see this page from Bat Conservation International:

What to Do If You Find an Infected Bat

If you find a bat, dead or alive, that you believe to have WNS, DO NOT touch it. Immediately contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via e-mail at . It is also important to contact your state wildlife agency. Be sure to identify the species of the bat when your report it and take pictures. If the bat is dead and you need to dispose of it, cover your hand with a plastic bag or plastic gloves to pick it up. Then put the bat in a plastic bag, spray it with disinfectant, and secure the bag. Dispose of the bat with the regular garbage. Afterwards wash your hands and anything else that may have come into contact with the bat.

If the bat, dead or alive, has a band or other small device on it, do not touch the device and contact the nearest Service field office, or your state wildlife agency. The device is being used to identify the bat for scientific purposes.

What We Can Do to HelpEdit

If it all possible, refrain from entering caves, abandoned mines, or other places that may contain bats. If you do have to enter a bat habitat, clean and disinfect yourself, all of your clothing, and equipment before and after entering the habitat. For tips on how to clean and disinfect from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, click here:

Build and place bat houses around your home and/or community.

Raise awareness about WNS and the importance of bats.