White Nose Syndrome, a disease of hibernating bats, has killed an estimated 6 million bats since 2006. WNS affects bats during hibernation. The disease is believed to originate from a cold-loving fungus that spreads among hibernating bats while in caves.
Of the bat species affected in North America by White-Nose Syndrome, five are native to Iowa, including the Big Brown Bat, Little Brown Bat, Northern Long-eared Bat, Tri-Colored Bat and the Indiana Bat.
Bats are crucial to a healthy ecosystem. They eat insects that can damage agricultural crops, saving us at least $3 billion annually in pest suppression services.
WNS is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets or livestock. It is known to be transmitted primarily from bat to bat, but fungal spores may be inadvertently carried to caves by humans on clothing and caving gear.
White-Nose Syndrome has been confirmed in Iowa. DNR experts have been monitoring bat populations, and state parks staff is educating the public while taking preventative measures to slow its potential spread.
Iowa citizens can help bats by following all decontamination requirements if entering caves and continuing to avoid disturbing bats, especially during hibernation.
Iowans can also help bats by volunteering to monitor bat populations in the state. Acoustic monitoring surveys that rely on recording bat echolocation calls are an efficient way to monitor bat populations to identify areas of high bat activity in Iowa.
White-Nose Syndrome Resources, via whitenosesyndrome.org
Additional White-Nose Syndrome Information
For general information about bats in Iowa: To learn about more about bats in Iowa and the challenges they face check out these Iowa State University Wildlife Extension resources:
To report unusual bat behavior or deaths that you observe during winter or early spring (especially bats flying during the daytime, bats with difficulty flying, or large numbers of dead bats near cave or mine openings), contact the Iowa DNR; Rachel.Ruden@dnr.iowa.gov