Clarification of Trout Cave Bat Findings

In late April, 2008, several reports in the popular presss stated that WNS may have been found in Trout Cave in Pendleton County, WV.  Craig Stihler (of the WVDNR) and Barbara Douglas (of the USFWS) sent a message to to the caving community clarifying what had been found in the cave.  That message is reproduced below with their permission.

April 29, 2008

Hi all: 

As many of you are aware, there were articles in a number of papers today about dead bats with potential White Nose Syndrome being found in Trout Cave, West Virginia.  Some of the facts in those articles got a little confused and we would like to correct the record. There were no dead bats.  Two live bats were found with a small amount of fungus - one on the ear and the other on the forearm.  The fungus would not have been noticeable (actually we are not sure it was a fungus) if we weren't looking so closely at the bats in the cave.  One bat was discovered only because Craig took a digital photo of the bat and zoomed in to get a close look at the animal.

Just to be safe, these two bats were collected and submitted them to a lab that has worked on white nose syndrome.  These bats were within the normal weight range for bats this time of year although somewhat on the low end.  When we did some work over 10 years ago - before anyone heard of white nose syndrome - we had data for bats that were considerably lighter at this time of the year. The lab confirmed that one bat had little body fat; the other had a little more. We need to remember that this was in April at the end of the hibernation period so that is not surprising.  In New York, where white nose syndrome has been documented, the bats were at similar weights in January.

We are dealing with a lot of unknowns.  Given that the cause of white nose remains unknown, there is no way the lab can confirm whether or not these bats are affected by white nose.  Given that biologists have rarely examined bats closely in hibernacula in April, we don't know what level of fungus is normal and to be expected.  We have seen bats this winter with white fungus that turned out to be fungus growing on a pellet of guano that was stuck to the bat.

So fungus on a bat does not necessarily mean the fungus is white nose. The bats in Trout Cave certainly did not exhibit the classic symptoms of white nose syndrome and there was no sign of any of the abnormal behaviors that have been observed at sites with White Nose (bats roosting near the entrance of the cave, bats too weak to respond to disturbance - the two bats we handled acted normally, Indiana bats were starting to move  - no bats flying out of the cave during daylight).

At this time white nose syndrome has not been confirmed in WV and we have no good evidence that it is here.  It is not time to panic and folks certainly shouldn't let up on efforts to keep it out of WV (clean and disinfect gear, etc).  Biologists in the Northeast are planning to do additional work next fall and winter to try to figure out where this problem occurs.  We are also continuing to work with labs throughout the country to identify the cause of white nose syndrome.

We are not aware of any evidence of white nose in southern WV and would like to learn more about what is being referred to in the previous email posted to this list. [The list is the Virginia Region of the NSS e-mail list.]

We appreciate everyone's continued cooperation and support on this issue.


Craig Stihler
WV Division of Natural Resources

Barb Douglas
US Fish and Wildlife Service

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This page last updated or verified on May 1, 2008