Date of this Version
During the winter of 2006/2007, an affliction of unknown origin dubbed “White-Nose Syndrome” (WNS) began devastating colonies of hibernating bats in a small area around Albany, New York. Colonies of hibernating bats were reduced 81-97% at the affected caves and mines that were surveyed. Since then, White-Nose Syndrome has been detected more than 700 kilometers (450 mi) away from the original site, and has infected bats in eight surrounding states. Most species of bats that hibernate in the region are now known to be affected and little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bats (M. septentrionalis), and federally listed (endangered) Indiana bats (M. sodalis) have been hit particularly hard. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with White-Nose Syndrome is unprecedented in hibernating bats, which differ from most other small mammals in that their survival strategy is to live life in the slow lane—their life history adaptations include high rates of survival and low fecundity, resulting in low potential for population growth. Most of the affected species are long lived (~5-15 years or more) and have only one offspring per year. Subsequently, bat numbers do not fluctuate widely over time, and populations of bats affected by White-Nose Syndrome will not recover quickly. Epizootic disease outbreaks have never been previously documented in hibernating bats.