CHEYENNE – To continue monitoring the status of white-nose syndrome in bats in Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in collaboration with other agencies and organizations, annually swabs the mammals for early detection of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Called Pd for short, it is the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, a disease that kills bats during hibernation. Game and Fish recently completed their annual survey.
Since 2014, Game and Fish has swabbed bats in their winter boarding locations, called hibernacula, looking for Pd. In 2017, Game and Fish began capturing bats in the spring to swab them for the fungus at maternity roosts and other locations with high concentrations of bats. Monitoring using both methods contributes to a national early detection program led by the National Wildlife Health Center.
This year, Game and Fish nongame biologists, along with partners, surveyed bats in nine Wyoming counties using a mixture of the two monitoring methods. The survey collected swabs from bats and cave walls in hibernacula, as well as swabs and guano samples from active bats. Biologists confirmed the Pd fungus on the little brown myotis bat species for the second year in a row at the maternity roost in Fort Laramie in Goshen County. Laboratory results came back as inconclusive for five active little brown myotis in Niobrara County, suggesting the fungus may also be present in this county.
“Given that inconclusive results were found for multiple bats and the proximity of Niobrara County to Goshen County and infected areas in South Dakota, we feel it is important to be proactive in our efforts to notify the public and minimize potential spread,” said Nichole Bjornlie, Game and Fish nongame mammal biologist. “Bats can carry the fungus without showing symptoms of the disease, and there is typically a lag between the first detection of the fungus and the observation of the disease.”
Biologists also sampled locations in Sheridan, Washakie, Big Horn, Fremont, Natrona and Crook counties; no samples tested positive for Pd. Teton county was also surveyed but the results are still outstanding.
Game and Fish biologists, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will continue to monitor bat populations and sample for early detection of Pd statewide. Monitoring will allow biologists to track the spread across Wyoming and evaluate the potential effects of the fungus and the disease on Wyoming’s bat populations.
The Pd fungus can be transported by humans, but there are ways to avoid spreading it to protect bats. The fungus has no effect on humans and pets.
- Clean your shoes and gear before and after you visit caves or other locations where bats are present to prevent the spread of the fungus to new areas.
- Don’t take gear or clothing that’s been in a cave or mine affected by white-nose syndrome to places that are free of the fungus.
- Check canopies, umbrellas and other items for bats before packing up. They could be home to a roosting bat and this prevents unintended movement of potentially infected bats to new areas.
- Contact Game and Fish personnel if you see a sick or dead bat. Try to record the location.
- Stay out of closed caves and mines