News from the DNR Office of Communications

White Nose Syndrome Confirmed In Hibernating Bats From Washington County Mines

Annapolis, Md. (March 29, 2011) — Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists have confirmed that White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has been found in an abandoned mine complex in western Washington County. The mine complex serves as an important bat hibernacula, or bat hibernation site. WNS is a malady causing unprecedented bat mortality across the eastern United States. Affected bats display a white fungal growth on their muzzles or other exposed skin.

“This is the second WNS site documented by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The first was in March 2010 at a cave in Allegany County near Cumberland,” said DNR biologist Dan Feller. “Hibernacula surveys are still underway with assistance from volunteer cavers, students and other biologists. Fortunately the additional surveys have not yielded any new WNS sites.”

DNR biologists discovered a dead Little Brown Bat during a recent survey and submitted the animal for testing. The U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin confirmed WNS in the sample. Positive cases of WNS have been found in four of the five Maryland mines surveyed. These mines harbor state and federally endangered bat species.

WNS is a disease that has spread across mines and caves in 14 states and two Canadian provinces, killing more than a million bats. It was first observed at Howe Cave near Albany, NY in 2006. WNS is also thought to be associated with and likely caused by a newly discovered cold-weather fungus, Geomyces destructans.

Under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a national interagency team is mobilizing to slow the spread and find a cure to White-nose Syndrome.

“WNS is only known to affect hibernating bats and is not known to be harmful to humans” said Jonathan McKnight, associate director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service. “It appears the most common mechanism for transmission of the disease is direct contact from bat to bat. However, because the fungus associated with WNS can live in cave soils, it may be possible for humans to spread WNS in cave dirt through contact with their clothing and gear.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requests that cavers refrain from caving in all WNS affected states and adjoining states. And cavers should refrain from caving anywhere during the hibernation period (September – May) to minimize disturbance and mortality to bats.

DNR biologists, following strict protocols established by the Northeastern WNS Working Group, will continue their monitoring efforts to determine if any other hibernation sites are affected in the state. Additional information on white-nose syndrome can be found at http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/plants_wildlife/bats/nhpbatdisease.asp .


   March 29, 2011

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell
jdavidsburg@dnr.state.md.us

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov