The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is conducting bat colony monitoring in the state in an effort to survey for white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus that is responsible for more than six million bat deaths in the United States.
Neither the disease nor the fungus, which is not a threat to humans, has been detected in Louisiana, said LDWF Wildlife Disease Biologist Nikki Anderson, who is overseeing the monitoring program. She said that’s why it’s so important to observe bat colonies in the state.
In a citizen-science initiative, LDWF is encouraging state residents to help in the program. If you know the location of a roost or want to participate in bat monitoring contact Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225-765-5030.
Bats are vital to America and Louisiana’s agriculture industry. In fact, bats can be a farmer or gardener’s best friends because of the many insects they devour. They are also key in seed dispersal and pollination world-wide.
“It’s estimated they save farmers billions annually in crop damage and reduced pesticide usage because of the insects they eat,” Anderson said. “They’re extremely beneficial. We don’t have any fruit bats or nectar feeding bats in Louisiana; all of our bat species consume insects.”
White-nose syndrome was discovered in New York state in 2006-07. The fungus that causes the disease, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has spread rapidly. It has not been found in Louisiana or Florida, the only two states with that distinction in the eastern United States.
Louisiana is on the geographical leading edge of the disease spread. It was first detected in Arkansas and Mississippi in 2013-2014 and Texas in 2016-2017. Since those first detections, it has continued to spread closer to Louisiana boarders, increasing the potential for spread into the state.
The disease, named for the white fungus found on bats’ muzzles and wings, attacks hibernating bats.
Louisiana, which has 12 bat species, has four species of bats that have contracted white-nose syndrome in other parts of the country and four that have been found with the fungus but not the disease.
For more information on white-nose disease, go to www.whitenosesyndrome.org/.