ASHEVILLE, NC A leading bat expert with the USDA Forest Service's Southern Research Station today identified nine bat species in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee that she believes are most threatened by white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungus that kills bats and appears to be rapidly spreading south from the northeastern United States. Station Research Ecologist Susan Loeb, Ph.D. says WNS has been confirmed in Tennessee, and she says it is just a matter of time before the fungus is detected in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.
"In the five states where most of my research has centered, little-brown bats and Indiana bats are among the most threatened by WNS meaning their populations could either be seriously decimated or become extinct," said Loeb, a veteran wildlife researcher based in Clemson, S.C. "Historically, little-brown bats were quite common, but the species appears to be especially susceptible to the fungus and is being hit hard in the states where WNS has taken hold. While populations of the federally endangered Indiana bat showed signs of rebounding in recent years, those gains may soon be negated by white-nose syndrome."
Loeb is also concerned that WNS will have serious effects on populations of small-footed bats, northern long-eared bats, and Eastern pipistrelles, either because of their small populations, their susceptibility to the disease or both. Other species that could be infected are the Virginia big-eared bat, Rafinesque's big-eared bat, gray bat and southeastern bat. More than a dozen bat species inhabit Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
"Virginia big-eared bats are endangered, so their small numbers and limited distribution put the species at serious risk of becoming extinct in Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia if they become infected," said Loeb. "Rafinesque's big-eared bat is a rare species that hibernates in
|Contact: Stevin Westcott|
Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service