It is a disease that mostly affects hibernating bats. It has been spread quickly, especially in the United States of America killing millions of bats in its wake. Unfortunately, since it was first reported in 2006, a whopping 5.6 million bats have died.
How is it spread?
WNS (as it is commonly referred to), is spread by a fungus that attacks their skin as they are in hibernation. This fungus was originally transported from Eurasia by humans.It is generally passed from bat to bat when they are in contact during hibernation.
What are the telltale signs of WNS?
• If you see bats flying around during winter, they may be infected by WNS. This is because they have lost their fat reserves and are therefore looking to be satisfied. They are also terribly dehydrated and may be looking for a drink of water.
• If you see a white color on their noses, they are infected.
• You may also see many bats clustered at the entrances of caves unlike their usual habits of hibernating inside.
What happens then?
They will fly around looking for food and water at the wrong time of the day and even during winter. Generally due to the freezing temperatures, a sick bat will eventually drop and die.
Why should this concern you?
Bats are very important to the ecosystem. Mainly because, their bug consumption greatly helps humans by keeping them at a controlled level. If all the bats in the world were to die, it would be bad for the environment.
How can you be of help?
• If you see bats flying at the wrong time of day or during winter, report to your nearest wildlife control offices.
• Avoid going into caves during hibernation as you may also help in the transmission of the disease. This is because if you step on guano (bats droppings) that has the fungusand go to another cave, you may have carried the fungus to a location in which it was not present in the first place, effectively transmitting the disease.
• You can help in their conservation by reducing deforestation in your area and with the construction of bat homes.
Because of their importance to the ecosystem, it is best to leave bats alone without disturbing their environment and possibly being a part of the reason they are dying off.