WNS: a Northeastern Problem–So Far


Are you keeping up with White Nose Syndrome as wildlife scientists continue to search for an explanation and fears of spring bat movements put other states beyond the four known to harbor the condition on alert? In Pennsylvania and West Virginia, dead bats are being tested to rule out WNS and no cases in those states have been confirmed.

Batmanagement.com (map source) has what is probably the first organized focus I’ve seen on WNS that was presented in a poster presentation last summer (2007) by Alan Hicks who continues to study the condition. Notable from the poster (pdf) is the unusual high temps in the studied caves and the season overall, though it is not known to what degree higher than normal temperatures may contribute to the bats “death by starvation.”

What does seem certain is that, as I learned in ecology class so long ago, “you can never do just one thing.” As insectivores with massive appetites, the absence or reduction of summer bats will mean more of their food stays in the air and on munching on food crops. Also related to warmer temps and  of note on the mosquito front…

As the warm season sets in, the risk for the West Nile virus to manifest becomes higher as mosquito populations increase numbers. The season normally begins in April and lasts until September, but due to warm weather this year, the first cases of the West Nile virus have been reported as early as March 19.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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