Bat-Killing Fungus that Causes White-Nose Syndrome Continues to Spread in Washington with Recent Detection in Chelan, Mason, and Yakima Counties
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
OLYMPIA – An invasive fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, an often fatal disease of hibernating bats, continues to spread in Washington. During spring and summer fieldwork this year, scientists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), in partnership and with funding from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), detected the fungus or disease in at least three additional counties in the state.
“These recent confirmations of white-nose syndrome and the causative fungus in new areas of Washington are very concerning, as they provide evidence that the disease is spreading,” said Abby Tobin, white-nose syndrome coordinator for WDFW. “This eventually may lead to population declines in several bat species that are vulnerable to white-nose syndrome.”
White-nose syndrome is harmful to hibernating bats but does not affect humans, livestock, or other wildlife. The disease is caused by the fungus, which attacks the skin of hibernating bats and damages their delicate wings, making it difficult to fly. Infected bats often leave hibernation too early, which causes them to deplete their fat reserves and become dehydrated or starve to death. Pseudogymnoascus destructans
Washington is home to 15 bat species that are important predators of night-flying insects. These bats benefit humans by eating tons of insects that can negatively affect forest health, commercial crops, and human health and well-being.
In March 2016, the first case of white-nose syndrome in the western U.S. was confirmed in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) in King County. Since then, WDFW has confirmed over 100 cases of the disease in at least four bat species in the state. WDFW has confirmed white-nose syndrome in King, Chelan, Kittitas, and Pierce counties. In addition, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has been detected in Lewis, Mason, Snohomish, and Yakima counties.
A map showing fungus and white-nose syndrome detections in Washington is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/bats.