12.04.09

As Hibernation Season Nears, Agency Issues New Guidance On Slowing Spread Of Mystery Illness That Has Decimated Northeast’s Bat Populations

WASHINGTON (Friday, Dec. 4) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Friday released guidance for slowing the spread of the bat disease pandemic that has already killed millions of hibernating bats across the Northeast.  

The agency has developed a process of structured decisionmaking to guide management recommendations described in the report, which outlines the best known approaches to managing the risk of spreading the disease, known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS).  The causes of the outbreak are still unknown.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to allocate the $1.4 million Congress recently appropriated – funding championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) -- primarily for targeted research.  The Fiscal Year 2010 funding will double the funds previously available to combat WNS for the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Leahy said, “I commend the Fish and Wildlife Service for ramping up these cooperative efforts to minimize the spread of this disease.”

Leahy noted that Vermont has worked to prevent the spread of WNS to new sites through human transmission and is alerting landowners and land managers so they can take precautionary steps.  He said that moving forward from here, it will be important for the Fish and Wildlife Service to press ahead with expedited and targeted research, as well as closely monitoring bat populations during and after the winter hibernation.  The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Agency invites Vermonters to help them track the spread of WNS by reporting erratic bat behavior and mortality this winter online at:  http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/Sick_Acting_Bat_Citizen_Reporting_Form.cfm

The report is part of a larger national plan the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners are developing, which is expected to be completed this winter.  Work on WNS continues to be a cooperative effort among state and federal agencies, non-government organizations, universities and many others.

The report and a set of questions and answers about it are available at the following link:  http://www.fws.gov/northeast/wnsplanning.html.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693