Fungus serious threat to North American bats

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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby adleedy » Feb 29, 2008 7:37 pm

i do agree with you on certain points ron, I will just leave it at that, and hold my thoughts to myself for the time being.
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Re: WV cave closures and more WNS info

Postby hewhocaves » Feb 29, 2008 8:18 pm

John Lovaas wrote:Well, I'm pretty sure I don't have an opinion yet on WNS, and I did not intend to "manipulate" data. We don't know what WNS is, we don't know what causes or transports it, but I reckon I do have a life outside of caving. And if the Midwest FWS folks asked Midwest cavers to stay out of our (few) significant bat caves while they tried to figure out what is happening, I would happily and cheerfully comply- a result of having a life outside of caving. There are many activities I can take part in on a given weekend. To think of these closures as being an "inconvenience" to me, or anyone else, is laughable.



I suspected that it wasn't intentional and most people know that the vast majority of any state's cave data are little ratholes - surveyed and forgotten. My point was simply that in a debate as serious as this, we need to be as accurate as possible. Also, as a rule, I'm against forming my opinion based solely on someone's "word". I like to know why they are saying what they are saying - i.e. what is the data supporting their POV?

That's why I mentioned the 44/19 figure. Of the 44 caves listed in the WV document, 19 were already closed year round or seasonally.

Which is a sort of confusing figure without any context. It's just out there in space. what if all the possible caves in the area = 50 caves? I can't form a conclusion without knowing the whole sample size.

I would argue that there is insufficient information available to state whether WNS is or is not transmittable by caver's actions. So it behooves us as cavers to cooperate and assist agency and science folks to find out what is happening.


I tend to disagree. Firstly, its impossible to prove a negative. There's always some possibility that something could happen. Secondly, even though we dont' know the EXACT number of cavers which have caved outside of the NE. we do know that so far 0% of the bats have been infected. Over two years, thats a lot of opportunity. I think we can provisionally say that its very unlikely cavers can transport the disease over long distances. However, as I noted in previous posts, we should still be wary about the really sensitive bat caves in Pendleton County. However, if we don't find it outside the bat's natural ranges after this summer, I don't think there should be any restrictions outside of the area. Furthermore, I think that if the bat people persist with that line of reasoning, they will only succeed in further damaging their credibility with the caving community.

Anyway,I hope the bat people figure it out soon regardless.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby wyandottecaver » Feb 29, 2008 9:40 pm

hewhocaves,

This isn't exactly a math equation. We make decisions based on risk aversion all the time. In this case, it's not really about percentages. If the .000X% chance of a asteroid falling and hitting you comes to pass, your still dead.. the argument is that if people aren't entering the caves (or freqenting the areas around them) they CAN'T transmit it. We don't know if cavers in the NE picked up something (or not), we don't know if it was transported somewhere else (or not), and we don't know that bats elsewhere aren't affected (or not). What if the latency of this takes 6 years to manifest and we are seeing the results on a 6 year delay? unlikely, but when your talking about such wholesale die-offs..something to consider.

I think the bottom line we keep forgetting is that we are talking about probable wholesale die-offs in entire regions. Are we being over-cautious and taking measures that are probably unnecessary? maybe. The consequences of failure however......
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Feb 29, 2008 11:00 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:hewhocaves,

This isn't exactly a math equation. We make decisions based on risk aversion all the time. In this case, it's not really about percentages. If the .000X% chance of a asteroid falling and hitting you comes to pass, your still dead.. the argument is that if people aren't entering the caves (or freqenting the areas around them) they CAN'T transmit it. We don't know if cavers in the NE picked up something (or not), we don't know if it was transported somewhere else (or not), and we don't know that bats elsewhere aren't affected (or not). What if the latency of this takes 6 years to manifest and we are seeing the results on a 6 year delay? unlikely, but when your talking about such wholesale die-offs..something to consider.

I think the bottom line we keep forgetting is that we are talking about probable wholesale die-offs in entire regions. Are we being over-cautious and taking measures that are probably unnecessary? maybe. The consequences of failure however......


Wyandottecaver -

But this IS exactly a math question - and it's one we make in a million different ways every day of our lives. You seem to be arguing close to the point that there is no limit to the precautions we should take. Here's a website showing the odds of dying of a given reason per year:

http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm

If we take as a starting point the number of cavers who cave in the Northeast and who have also caved outside of the northeast in a given year as about 3000 trips / year (that is, there are a total of 3000 man - trips per year) and if we say that just 1 person has transmitted WNS over the past 2 years (which we actually cannot say because we do NOT have a positive case yet), then the odds are roughly equal to being killed in an auto accident. I presume that you'll be recommending that we no longer drive cars now.

(by the way, I think that the number of trips is a bit larger than 3000 trips / year. I can account for at least 100 NE caver trips to WV in the past 2 years myself - and I am not privy to anything near all the NE caving trips which occur.)

On the other hand, the data from Hailes Cave two years ago is heavily dependent on the change in the number of surviving bats from year to year - that is, the number of live bats recorded in the cave via bat counts. Several bat people have explained to me that bat counts aren't absolute figures - bats move from cave to cave on a year to year basis - often for reasons still unknown to us. Here we have another statistic - one which requires an equivalent amount of interpretation. Yet you seem happy to accept this statistic at face value. I posit that it is poor science to accept a set of statistics blindly, and worse science to select or deny equally valid statistics based solely on the opinion you want to present. In other words, you can pick and choose what numbers you want to believe to make you feel better, but don't expect the rest of us to follow blindly along with you.

If, on the other hand, the latency is such that it takes 6 years, or ten years or however long time you wish to imagine then the caves (and bats) are all lost anyway - they've all been infected already. We might as well open up every bat cave, bat hibernaculum and maternity to everyone, if for no other reason than to say good-bye to our little firends. Because they are, to corrupt a phrase "dead bats flapping". It is more likely that whatever agent is responsible, it spreads slower, rather than quicker, striking heavily frequented caves as often as rarely visited mines. (in fact, by my reckoning, it's about 50 - 50). Furthermore, once you get outside of the Albany area, it is MUCH more likely to hit a rarely visited mine or cave than a frequently visited cave. Again, you can ignore these trends if you want, but its bad science to do so.

The data released to us so far seems to point at an agent which, on the one hand, completely devastates a hibernacula (possibly over multiple years), but on the other hand seems to move slowly from hibernacula to hibernacula. Between last year and this year, the number of caves contaminated increased (roughly) by a factor of three. That's bad, but not apocalyptic bad (yet). We just don't know enough of the curve yet to know what the long-term effects are (in part because we don't know enough about bat dynamics to say how much interaction they do do - and in part because we don't know how much of the cause is environmental (i.e. pesticides, et al) and how much is communicable). The growth could flatten out after a year or so so that it becomes an devastating, but local issue. Alternatively, the curve could go the other way. But we DO know that the bats (and the cavers) have had one year to spread this as far as possible and 3x is the best they got. These facts stand in stark contrast to the hyperbole some people like to engage in regarding this subject.

This is (I think) the third time that I've said this in this thread: That the hyperbole, seemingly random closures for indefinite periods without adequate explanation, and the apparent desire to emphasize the differences between the bat people and cavers (with statements which suggest that if you don't blindly follow every guideline without question you are a bad person / conservationist) if kept up at this pace will only cause a rift between the bat people, the cavers living in the affected regions, and some cavers outside of the affected regions. This, I am afraid will be the real legacy of this whole episode, and one more difficult to repair, I'm afraid.

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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby VACaver » Mar 1, 2008 6:14 am

I'd love to continue reading this discussion, but I'm going caving today, and need to go get my gear out of the autoclave :big grin:
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby wyandottecaver » Mar 3, 2008 5:33 pm

I received a nice reply to my inquiry to craig stihler of WVDNR regarding cave closures. He obviously is pretty busy right now, but any questions regarding specific caves should be directed to him at Craig Stihler: craigstihler@wvdnr.gov


I am sure there are concerns about why certain caves are on the list. I am not sure I can go through the list cave by cave at this time. Right now I have a lot going on (way more so than most winters) and I am going to be out of town for nearly two weeks and need to get a number of things in order before I go (hence, I am at the office on a Sunday).

Most of the caves are on the list because of endangered bats. A large number of caves already had at least seasonal closures for bats (i.e., Cave Mountain, Big Springs, Peacock Cave). There are some other caves that also have endangered bats at some time of the year, but did not have a pervious closure – Blood Cave and Smokehole Cave come to mind. Virginia big-eared bats use these caves in late summer/early fall (they also sometimes visit Smokehole Cave in the summer) as they move from their summer caves to their winter caves. We have not seen a reason to ask people to stay out of these caves in the past, but if WNS shows up there, bats roosting in these caves could spread WNS to our major big-eared bat caves. There are some caves on the list that have only a few endangered bats, but have large numbers of other species, and in their part of the state, are some of the largest concentrations of bats. Examples are Dyers, Organ, and Greenville Saltpeter. On the last survey, Greenville had 12 Indiana bats (historic reports say there were a few hundred in the past), but had over 2300 pipistrelles and 3600 little brown bats. A couple caves (i.e., Upper Marthas and New Trout) are on the list mainly because of their close proximity to a more important cave and the likelihood that if it became infected, the more significant cave also would be impacted. Lastly, there are caves like The Portal that have no records of endangered bats, but had enough bats of the common species that the owner asked to close the cave until we know more. Caldwell and Dreen caves, both owned by the WVDNR, fall into this category also. I hope this helps explain the rational behind the caves listed.

There are a lot of unknowns and I hope we soon find out that people cannot move this thing from cave to cave. I hope we never see WNS in West Virginia. If the cause turns out to be something that will restrict this problem to the more northern states, I see everything going back to the way they were pre-WNS.

I hope this information is helpful. Are there any particular caves you are interested in knowing why we consider them important?

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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby wyandottecaver » Mar 4, 2008 5:39 pm

another update via a bat conference recently completed at posted by john chenger

Below is a more complete summary of last week's Northeast Bat Working Group meeting held jointly with the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network annual meeting in VA. Two major meetings were held regarding WNS during that event.

White Nose Syndrome update
>From a presentation by Al Hicks et al
Joint SBDN/NEBWG meeting Feb., 2008
Prepared by Leslie Sturges 2/21/08

Bats with crusting white fungus were found in NY hibernacula in
winter 2006/2007. Mortality was high and aroused suspicion. By
winter 2007/2008 the condition and associated mortality had spread
to almost all known major NY hibernacula and to sites in VT and MA.
New sites are still being confirmed.

All cave-dependent species with the exception of Myotis lebeii and
Eptesicus fuscus have been found to be infected in affected caves.
However, M. lebeii roost in separate areas within the hibernacula
and work is underway to determine if they are also infected, though
the assumption is that they are. Affected caves include major
hibernacula of endangered Myotis sodalis (Indiana bats) and a large
portion of the population of nationally rare and state-listed M.
lebeii (Eastern small-footed bats).

Current mortality for hibernacula populations of affected species is
90-97% and behavioral markers suggest that remaining bats will be
dead by spring emergence. Not all dead bats exhibit the fungus;
however, the fungus has been found by researchers in the dermis and
sebaceous glands of asymptomatic bats from affected sites.

There are profound behavioral changes in bats at affected sites:
Clusters of bats are roosting in the light zone near entrances Dead
bats or remains are found outside cave entrances in the snow Nearby
residents are reporting bats flying during the day in 15-20°F
weather and bats roosting on exterior walls of residences. Flying
bats are falling to the ground dead or crash landing. Several have
been found roosting in woodpiles. Bats still inside caves are
abnormally slow to arouse and do not show appropriate cluster
warming under thermal imaging.

Bats necropsied are totally depleted of fat stores. (the latter 2
findings are from work completed just days ago) A live bat was
recovered last year, housed and fed, and subsequently released in
the spring, suggesting that the bats MAY be emerging because they
are starving OR that with adequate fat stores some bats can fight
off the pathogen.

To date there are some speculations as to the causative mechanism,
but NO particular pathogen has been identified
1) The pathogen may interfere with normal thermoregulatory ability
2) Bats are entering caves in fall with abnormally low fat
reserves and are subsequently unable to mount an immune response
3) The pathogen is parasitic, in particular, it may be
lipophilic and is feeding on the bats' stored fat

Some preliminary work on immune response has been done by Boston
University Looked at relative immune function Crude findings suggest
the WNS bats have significantly lower immune response compared to
the immune response of healthy E. fuscus, but
baseline data are lacking for healthy hibernating bats of the
species affected. To date there is no field diagnostic to identify
infected bats that do not have visible fungus.

There is no indication that rising temperatures are to blame,
despite some widely publicized quotes. Caves in Ohio track almost
identically
with affected caves in NY, and there are no infected bats or unusual
die offs there.

There are currently 9 universities, 4 or 5 federal agencies, state
wildlife agencies and health departments from 3 states, and a host
of other volunteers, researchers, and cavers working together to
combat the spread of this condition and to diagnose the cause.

US Fish and Wildlife Service is formulating guidelines for the
research and caving community to ensure appropriate disinfection of
equipment and research procedures to stop the spread of this
condition, until it is determined that it is not spread by human
activity.

USFWS does NOT have jurisdiction over any hibernacula that do not
contain endangered species. It is individual state's responsibility to
close caves and other hibernacula in order to protect bats. All
state wildlife agencies have been asked to be mindful of the
condition and to take appropriate action. There is no reason to
think that any wildlife agency would not be on high alert for WNS.

Significant funding has already been secured through public and
private entities. Offers of funding and assistance continue to come
in to
FWS and NY state personnel. The Indiana Bat Research Center is
overseeing funds and distribution.

FWS is acting as the central source for WNS information for the
public. Please refer public inquiries to http://www.fws.gov/midwest/
<http://www.fws.gov/midwest/>Endangered/mammals/inba/Batailment.html.

Information for cavers can be found at
http://www.necaveconservancy.org/default.php.

Researchers are being kept apprised through work group mailing lists
and committee conference calls. One last tantalizing tidbit: A
picture taken in a cave in the Netherlands was sent to the point
person at NY DEC. The picture appears to show
fungus on bats in a pattern identical to the WNS condition. However,
there, the condition does not result in dead bats.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby NZcaver » Mar 6, 2008 10:09 pm

Tonight on the CBS evening news:

Where have all the bats gone?
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Mar 6, 2008 11:23 pm

Darn it Jansen, ya beat me to the post!

btw, I have over fifty individual threads in my gmail account dedicated to WNS. Soon my email space will be an endangered species. :tonguecheek:
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby NZcaver » Mar 6, 2008 11:41 pm

Better luck next time, John. :wink:
I know what you mean about WNS taking over your email inbox. :hairpull:

At least this latest clip presents a few theories about why this might be happening, even if no claims are yet substantiated.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Mar 7, 2008 12:26 pm

Yeah, I'm not looking to CBS evening news for the ultimate word on this. The days of Walter Cronkite are looong gone.

I will say, however, that the map is pretty accurate. Please note that the map is tilted at like a 30 degree angle, emphasizing the east-west axis over the north-south axis. People should plot those points on a regular map to get rid of the skew.

For once I wish Google Maps didn't allow you to zoom in so much or I would make my map available to everyone - but cave locations are on there...
you know what? I can do a screen-shot. Here you go:

Image
heres a larger version (1280x1060) - same magnification.
http://hewhocaves.com/wns-map-3-7-08.jpg

The purple marks are the sites which are the 2 year sites. The orange ones are this year's haul. The camera represents sites checked which don't have WNS. The camera list is not complete by any stretch.

I will continue to keep this map up to date as best as I can. And when there's some significant update, I'll post it again. I'll also welcome any and all additions to the map (please try to cite where you got the info from.) Most importantly, I WILL NOT blow up this map any more than it already is. I think that this is the perfect size to illustrate the point made without giving away site locations. You can either pm me or email me.

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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby George Dasher » Mar 7, 2008 1:09 pm

Nice post Wandottecaver!! That post contained some good information, and I appreciate you putting it out.

I thought the CBS thing was pretty good. They weren't trying to go into too many details, but they did give a really good overview in a 30 second blurb.

The map is very informative too!
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby NZcaver » Mar 7, 2008 4:06 pm

Ward Stone is sticking to his theory today, in an story from the Albany Times Union (NY):

Bat deaths linked to climate change
Unusual weather may disrupt feeding patterns, causing starvation


By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
Friday, March 7, 2008

ALBANY -- A mysterious affliction that has killed thousands of hibernating bats in the Northeast is likely tied to recent mild winters, rather than a fungus around the mammals' mouths, according to a state wildlife pathologist.

While an investigation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation is continuing, DEC pathologist Ward Stone said warmer winters caused by climate change, rather than a mysterious white fungus, has been killing off thousands of hibernating bats in their caves this winter.

Stone, often a renegade at DEC during his long career there, said his studies of about 150 dead bats found the milky-colored fungus that has been dubbed "white nose syndrome" has not been killing the bats.

However, Stone's findings may not have the support of the sanctioned DEC team that is studying the problem and has not yet issued its conclusions.



Full story here
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby wyandottecaver » Mar 7, 2008 6:00 pm

poor guy.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby ArCaver » Mar 7, 2008 6:50 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:poor guy.


Does that mean you disagree with him, or that you feel sorry for him having little support?
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