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White-nose Syndrome detected in bats on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador

The brown bat population in Nova Scotia and other parts of Eastern Canada has been nearly wiped out by white-nose syndrome. A wildlife expert is asking that people leave bats alone as they come out of hibernation. RYAN VON LINDEN • CP
The brown bat population in Nova Scotia and other parts of Eastern Canada has been nearly wiped out by white-nose syndrome. — CP file photo

White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in three Little Brown Myotis (bats) in western Newfoundland, Fisheries and Land Resources said Friday.

This bat disease has decimated hibernating bats throughout the Maritime Provinces and the northeastern U.S., according to the news release.

White-nose syndrome gets its name from a ring of white fungus that forms on infected bats’ faces. Infected bats suffer severe damage to wing tissue, awaken more frequently from hibernation, and use up limited energy reserves quickly, the department said. The animals often perish at hibernation sites or on the landscape while attempting to find food and water.

Both the Little Brown Myotis and the Northern Long-eared Myotis in Newfoundland and Labrador are susceptible to white-nose syndrome, the release noted. In most other areas outside of this province where the disease has spread, hibernating bat populations have declined by 90-99 per cent over a period of about two years.

Forestry and Wildlife Branch staff, in conjunction with the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative, are surveying for the disease in the province.

Testing dead bats helps in the early detection of white-nose syndrome.

Officials are asking the public to report known or potential bat hibernation sites,  and if they notice any dead or sick bats, to take a GPS coordinate and photograph if possible and contact the local Forestry and Wildlife office or the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative at 1-833-434-BATS (2287).

Officials, however, are advising the public to never touch bats with your bare hands.

The Little Brown Myotis and the Northern Long-eared Myotis are currently listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act in Canada.

Given confirmation of the syndrome on the island, the department is exploring potential protection measures.

Other information:

  • During winter and spring, dead bats are often found on the snow where white-nose syndrome has infected a hibernacula.
  • The Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative can provide advice on how best to for manage bats in buildings and prevent unintentional human transport of bats, as well as information on white-nose syndrome.
  • Never enter bat hibernation sites, as spores of this disease can easily be unintentionally spread by people. Strict decontamination protocols are required for any contact with such sites.

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