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US FWS Message to Cavers
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Message to Cavers

You should not handle bats. If you come across live or dead bats with white–nose syndrome, contact your state wildlife agency or a nearby U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office.

The Service applauds the caving community’s strong conservation ethic and long-time support of bat conservation efforts, and we ask for your continued cooperation and assistance as we address white–nose syndrome.  We request that cavers continue to observe all cave closures and advisories, and to avoid caves or passages of caves containing large hibernating populations of any bat species.  The Service is not encouraging individual cavers or caving groups to systematically search for bats with white–nose syndrome in caves or mines.

We ask that you take the following precautions to prevent the possible spread of white–nose syndrome ("caves" includes all caves, fissures, mines, portals, etc.):

  • Observe all cave closures and advisories in all states. Some state have instituted closures and issued advisories beyond normal permanent and seasonal closures. New York has closed all infected sites. New York, Vermont, and New Jersey have advised all individuals to stay out of all caves with bats. Other states have instituted, or are considering instituting, closures of caves with bats and/or advisories to stay out of caves with bats. On this Web page, we will provide information about state closures and advisories of which we are aware. Just prior to caving, check this Web page for updated closures and advisories. If this Web page does not include closure information from a state in which you plan to go caving, contact that state's wildlife agency to obtain the latest information on cave access. Before caving in another country, check with the country's wildlife agency for information on cave access.
  • Upon exiting a cave, whether inhabitated by bats or not, in New York, Vermont, and adjacent states (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), follow the containment and decontamination procedures below. Decontaminate all clothing, footwear, and gear prior to departing for a caving outing if you did not decontaminate these items after last exiting a cave. In these states, we ask that you not take gear into a cave if that gear cannot be decontaminated or disposed of (e.g., if harnesses, ropes, or webbing cannot be decontaminated, we advise that you not enter caves or parts of caves requiring use of this gear and not take this gear into the cave).
  • Because clothing, footwear, and gear used in accessing a cave in New York or Vermont within the past 2 years could pose a risk of spreading the syndrome, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advises that these items (whether or not currently located in New York or Vermont) not be used when accessing caves anywhere and that these items not be transported out of New York or Vermont — until the cause of the syndrome is identified and the effectiveness of decontamination procedures can be evaluated. We advise that you decontaminate these items immediately (see decontamination procedures below) and store them away, and that you thoroughly wash and decontaminate any surfaces with which these items may have come into contact (e.g., car trunk).

If, while caving this winter, you observe a hibernating bat with a white muzzle or other odd white, fungus-like patches, please follow these guidelines:

  • Do not touch any bats (living or dead), especially those with a white muzzle or nose.
  • If you have a camera with you, please take a few photographs of the potentially affected bat(s).
  • Exit the cave immediately, avoiding contact with other bats.
  • Contain and decontaminate your clothing, footwear, and gear following the procedures below.
  • Contact your state wildlife agency or your nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field office to report your potential white–nose syndrome observations.
  • Report any dead bats found outdoors or any unusual numbers of bats outside during cold weather, especially near a cave where bats hibernate.

White–Nose Syndrome Containment and Decontamination Procedures

The Service asks that cavers please follow these procedures for containment and decontamination in the circumstances identified above. Prior to each caving outing, please check this Web page for updates to these procedures.

  • When you exit the cave, scrape or brush off any dirt and mud from your clothes, boots, and gear. When you get to your vehicle, remove your clothing, boots, and gear, put them in a plastic/garbage bag, and seal the bag closed to prevent contamination of the vehicle's interior and trunk (and subsequent re-contamination of your gear). Remember to bring extra clothes for the drive home.
  • Wash your caving clothes using hot water, detergent, and a normal bleach cycle. Dry the clothes thoroughly at hot temperatures.
  • Wash your boots thoroughly with detergent and then soak them in a 10 percent bleach solution (1 part chlorine bleach: 9 parts water) — soak porous boots longer than nonporous boots.
  • Wash your gear thoroughly with detergent and then soak in a 10 percent bleach solution.
  • Dry items in sunlight if possible.

SBDN/NEBWG meeting Summary

Dear Colleagues,

Below is a summary from the meetings all last week of the Northeast Bat Working Group (NEBWG). This included most of the bat biologists, state agency people, scientists, and bat managers working on WNS. Thanks to Emily Davis for sending this along.

Peter Youngbaer

White Nose Syndrome Update

Bats with crusting white fungus were found in NY hibernacula in winter 2006/2007. Mortality was high and aroused suspicion. By winter 2007/2008 the condition and associated mortality had spread
to almost all known major NY hibernacula and to sites in VT and MA. New sites are still being confirmed.

All cave-dependent species with the exception of Myotis lebeii and Eptesicus fuscus have been found to be infected in affected caves. However, M. lebeii roost in separate areas within the hibernacula
and work is underway to determine if they are also infected, though the assumption is that they are. Affected caves include major hibernacula of endangered Myotis sodalis (Indiana bats) and a large
portion of the population of nationally rare and state-listed M. lebeii (Eastern small-footed bats).

Current mortality for hibernacula populations of affected species is 90-97% and behavioral markers suggest that remaining bats will be dead by spring emergence. Not all dead bats exhibit the fungus;
however, the fungus has been found by researchers in the dermis and sebaceous glands of asymptomatic bats from affected sites.

There are profound behavioral changes in bats at affected sites: Clusters of bats are roosting in the light zone near entrances Dead bats or remains are found outside cave entrances in the snow Nearby
residents are reporting bats flying during the day in 15-20°F weather and bats roosting on exterior walls of residences. Flying bats are falling to the ground dead or crash landing. Several have been found roosting in woodpiles. Bats still inside caves are abnormally slow to arouse and do not show appropriate cluster warming under thermal imaging.

Bats necropsied are totally depleted of fat stores. (the latter 2 findings are from work completed just days ago) A live bat was recovered last year, housed and fed, and subsequently released in
the spring, suggesting that the bats MAY be emerging because they are starving OR that with adequate fat stores some bats can fight off the pathogen.

To date there are some speculations as to the causative mechanism, but NO particular pathogen has been identified

  1. The pathogen may interfere with normal thermoregulatory ability
  2. Bats are entering caves in fall with abnormally low fat reserves and are subsequently unable to mount an immune response
  3. The pathogen is parasitic, in particular, it may be lipophilic and is feeding on the bats' stored fat

Some preliminary work on immune response has been done by Boston University Looked at relative immune function Crude findings suggest the WNS bats have significantly lower immune response compared to the immune response of healthy E. fuscus, but baseline data are lacking for healthy hibernating bats of the species affected. To date there is no field diagnostic to identify infected bats that do not have visible fungus.

There is no indication that rising temperatures are to blame, despite some widely publicized quotes. Caves in Ohio track almost identically with affected caves in NY, and there are no infected bats or unusual die offs there.

There are currently 9 universities, 4 or 5 federal agencies, state wildlife agencies and health departments from 3 states, and a host of other volunteers, researchers, and cavers working together to
combat the spread of this condition and to diagnose the cause.

US Fish and Wildlife Service is formulating guidelines for the research and caving community to ensure appropriate disinfection of equipment and research procedures to stop the spread of this condition, until it is determined that it is not spread by human activity.

USFWS does NOT have jurisdiction over any hibernacula that do not contain endangered species. It is individual state's responsibility to close caves and other hibernacula in order to protect bats. All
state wildlife agencies have been asked to be mindful of the condition and to take appropriate action. There is no reason to think that any wildlife agency would not be on high alert for WNS.

Significant funding has already been secured through public and private entities. Offers of funding and assistance continue to come in to FWS and NY state personnel. The Indiana Bat Research Center is
overseeing funds and distribution.

FWS is acting as the central source for WNS information for the public. Please refer public inquiries to

Researchers are being kept apprised through work group mailing lists and committee conference calls. One last tantalizing tidbit: A picture taken in a cave in the Netherlands was sent to the point
person at NY DEC. The picture appears to show fungus on bats in a pattern identical to the WNS condition. However, there, the condition does not result in dead bats.