Craig Stihler's message to West Virginia Cavers

The message below was sent on January 12, 2008  from Craig Stihler (Head of the Endangered Species Program in the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources) to several caving e-mail lists in West Virginia and surrounding states.  The message was forwarded for Craig by another caver.

Please Report White-nosed Bats!

Last winter, “white-nosed” bats were found in four caves in New York, and were associated with high levels of bat mortality (over 8,000 dead bats).  The “white noses” appear to be caused by a fungus, and this appears to be the first time this syndrome has been observed anywhere.   The bats that have been observed with this condition so far are bats in the genus Myotis-little brown bats, northern long-eared bats, and Indiana bats.

The fungus has been identified to the genus Fusarium, a common and widespread genus usually associated with plants.  Pathologists that have examined the carcasses recovered from the New York sites do not believe the fungus is the main culprit.  One guess at this time is that the fungus invades after the bats are stressed by some other factor.  The fungus does not appear to be in the lungs of the bats.  Dead bats found in these caves have no remaining body fat.  It may be that the bats try to maintain a high body temperature in an effort to fight off some sort of infection and eventually starve to death.  

Not much is known about this syndrome, but it could have a severe impacts on populations of cave bats.  Bats with the “white nose syndrome” were observed in New York again in January 2008, so this is not a problem that has gone away.  If you observe any “white-nosed” bats in West Virginia caves (or large numbers of dead and dying bats) please report them to:

Craig Stihler
West Virginia Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 67
Elkins, West Virginia  26241

There is a picture at:

If you see such bats in caves in other states, please report them to the appropriate state agencies.  No one knows how this disease is spread, so to be safe, please do whatever you can to clean and disinfect you gear before entering another cave if you encounter this condition. 

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This page last updated or verified on February 12, 2008