Center for Biological Diversity

Tell Congress to Save Our Bats Now

Bat with white-nose syndrome
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White-nose syndrome is a newly emergent wildlife disease that has been devastating bat populations in eastern North America since 2006. Effective response to this unprecedented wildlife crisis has been severely hampered by a shortage of funding within federal and state wildlife agencies. The survival of several bat species, and billions of dollars in pest-control services provided by bats to U.S. farmers, are at stake.

The widespread demise of bats could have large-scale consequences. Bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects, many of which are serious pests to crops and trees managed for timber production. Researchers have estimated that the loss of bats to white-nose syndrome, combined with bat deaths attributable to proliferating wind-energy development, could cost American agriculture at least $3.7 billion per year -- and potentially as much as $53 billion per year.

Congress needs to provide at least $10.8 million in the 2012 budget to support white-nose syndrome research, planning, coordination and management. Congress also needs to pass the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, which will create a structure and dedicated funding for rapidly responding to fast-moving wildlife illnesses.

We need your help now to address this wildlife emergency. Please submit messages to Congress by filling in the form below.

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Background
White-nose syndrome was first found in a privately operated cave near Albany, N.Y., and has since spread rapidly in all directions. This winter it was detected for the first time in Maine, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. So far the disease, or the fungus linked to it, has been reported in 19 states and four Canadian provinces. Six species of bat, including one federally endangered species, the Indiana bat, have been affected by the malady to date. Another three species, including a second federally endangered bat called the gray bat, have been documented with the pathogenic fungus but have not yet exhibited symptoms of the disease.

The rapid spread of white-nose syndrome, combined with its high mortality rates, has caused grave concern among biologists, conservationists, cavers, farmers and others. Bat colonies have suffered mortality rates exceeding 70 percent, and some colonies that formerly had tens of thousands of bats have been virtually annihilated. Scientists project that one or more bat species could become extinct in the near future. Altogether, two dozen bat species found in the continental United States are believed to be at risk from either severe population reduction or extinction due to this devastating disease.

There are currently no effective treatments to stop or cure white-nose syndrome. Biologists believe the disease is spread most frequently by bats themselves as they move between hibernating and roosting sites in caves and mines. However, humans moving from cave to cave may be an important secondary means of disease transmission, and given their much greater mobility, could be the means by which the disease "leapfrogs" long distances into new parts of the country.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont are calling on their colleagues in Congress to appropriate $10.8 million for white-nose syndrome in the 2012 federal budget. We strongly support the senators and urge other members of Congress to do the same. This amount is small relative to the billions of dollars of free, nontoxic pest control services bats provide to farmers nationwide, in addition to the other values bats provide in their ecosystems.

We also support the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, which Sen. Lautenberg introduced last year. This legislation is designed to address the desperate need -- highlighted by the white-nose crisis -- for a wildlife disease rapid-response structure within the federal government. The Act would create a mechanism for identifying and quickly taking action on newly emerging diseases and would dedicate funding for this purpose. If such a mechanism had been in place when white-nose was first discovered, it's quite possible it would not have spread as far and fast as it has.

Please send a message to your congressional representatives today asking them to support $10.8 million for white-nose syndrome response in 2012 and to vote for the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, to ensure swifter, more effective responses to wildlife disease crises in the future.

Find out more at SaveOurBats.org.

Photo of bat with white-nose syndrome symptoms by Greg Turner, Pennsylvania Game Commission.