White-Nose Syndrome in Missouri

White-Nose Syndrome

Disease Kills Bats, Affects Natural Insect Control

In March 2012, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) confirmed Missouri's first fully developed case of a bat disease known as "white-nose syndrome" (WNS). The name describes a white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which causes the disease and typically appears on the faces and wings of infected cave-dwelling bats. It it does not affect humans, but humans can spread the fungus on their clothes and gear. Please stay out of Missouri's caves unless you're part of a team conducting research on this disease. All Department caves are closed. Generally, all caves on Missouri's public lands are closed, except for tour caves in state parks and one on national park land (see External Links below)

Clean Your Clothes and Gear Between Cave Visits!

Cleaning all caving gear with recommended procedures and disinfectants reduces the risk of infecting new caves and bats. Disinfect caving gear according to the most recent advisory (see the White-Nose Syndrome Website under External Links below). Don't take caving gear that has been used in Missouri to states that are not currently affected by WNS.

Report Signs of WNS (see Tony Elliott's contact info below)

  • Do not handle any bats.
  • Contact MDC if you find recently dead bats with white, fuzzy, fungal growth.
  • Contact MDC if you see bats flying during the daylight in winter.

When did white-nose syndrome appear and where is it now?

First discovered in the U.S. in New York state in 2006, the disease has spread quickly into 25 states and five Canadian provinces.

Why are you now recommending cavers disinfect their gear before entering some MDC caves?

Cleaning all caving gear with recommended procedures and disinfectants reduces the risk of infecting new caves and bats. We can provide more information on this subject. See the White-Nose Syndrome Website under External Links below for additional disinfection protocols.

Is WNS in Missouri yet?

  • Yes. MDC found the first signs of the fungus in a privately owned cave in Pike County, confirmed by laboratory results on April 13, 2010.
  • In March 2012, three more bats from two caves in Lincoln County were confirmed to have the WNS disease.
  • During the winter of 2013-2014, one deceased bat from each of Camden and Iron counties were confirmed by laboratory to have died from WNS. Additionally, bat counts at a limited number of hibernation sites suggested decreases in numbers.

What bat species are susceptible to WNS?

  • Missouri has at least 12 resident species of bats in Missouri, and seven species are susceptible to WNS infection. These include the big brown bat, eastern small-footed bat, little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, eastern pipistrelle (or tri-colored bat), and the federally endangered Indiana and gray bats.
  • Missouri's other cave bats not yet known to contract WNS include southeastern bat and Rafinesque's big-eared bat.
  • Tree bats (don't significantly use caves) are not known to contract WNS. Missouri's tree bat species include eastern red bat, hoary bat, and silver-haired bat.

How long will this WNS problem be with us?

  • No one can predict how long the WNS epidemic will be here. It has not infected more than seven species of bats so far, but it could spread to other species of bats that come in contact during fall mating swarms or during hibernation.
  • The fungus does not grow in warmer, drier conditions.

Who is my MDC contact for bats and WNS?

Tony Elliott
Resource Scientist
Missouri Department of Conservation
660-785-2424, ext. 257

Key Messages: 

Missourians care about conserving forests, fish and wildlife.

Learn more about the Department's White-Nose Syndrome Action Plan, published April, 2010.

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