Bug Net Down!

Fungus killing off Canada's bats


Source: (PostMedia News) - Canadian bats are experiencing such catastrophic die-offs - with more than 90 per cent of the creatures dying in caves in Eastern Canada - that Environment Minister Peter Kent has been advised to issue an emergency order and declare three bat species endangered.

A rapidly spreading fungus that causes white nose syndrome poses a "serious and imminent threat to the survival" of the bats, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) announced Monday.
The fungus is so deadly - and cut-ting such a huge swath through bat caves - that the national committee of wildlife experts called an emergency meeting to assess the situation. The committee has recommended to the federal environment minister is-sue an "emergency order" placing three species - the tri-coloured bat, the little brown myotis and northern myotis - on Canada's list of endangered species.
"Although information on bats and the fungal disease is somewhat limited, the evidence of population collapse and rapid spread of the disease is clear," the committee said.
White nose syndrome, caused by the fungus geomyces destructans, is causing "unprecedented mortality in Canada's native bat species," the committee says.
Bat caves in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes have seen die-offs of 90 to 99 per cent.
"This is one of the biggest events in terms of a massive decline in a common mammal in such a short period of time ever recorded," committee member Graham Forbes, at the University of New Brunswick, said in an interview with Postmedia News. "This is dramatic."
He has seen the damage first-hand in a cave in New Brunswick that two years ago had 6,000 bats. "We went back this year are there are about 350 left," says Forbes. "It's happening in Ontario and Quebec and it's spreading very fast."
He and his colleagues warn the impact will be felt far beyond bat caves.
"White nose syndrome is more than just a bat problem," said COSEWIC. "Bats provide tremendous value to the economy as natural pest control for farms and forests every year and may play an important role in helping to control insects that spread disease to people."
U.S. researchers have estimated the bat die-off will cost North American agriculture $3.7 billion annually.
The fungus is believed to have originated in Europe. Forbes says it could have been carried to North America on the shoes or clothing of someone who visited in a cave popular with tourists in New York, where white nose syndrome was first identified in 2006. It turned up Canada in the winter of 2009-10 and COSEWIC says it is spreading rapidly at between 200 and 400 kilometres a year.
The fungus, which is now being spread by contact between bats, is expected to continue to move west.
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