Fungus serious threat to North American bats

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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Mar 7, 2008 7:06 pm

Perhaps hes just commenting on the man's finances. :tonguecheek:
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby ArCaver » Mar 7, 2008 9:33 pm

hewhocaves wrote:Perhaps hes just commenting on the man's finances. :tonguecheek:


Hell, he could be talking about me too. :laughing:
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby icave » Mar 8, 2008 9:02 am

Is it just me or has anybody else noticed that the WNS generally trends around the Hudson River? It might be a good idea to check out changes in food sources and/or water quality along this corridor.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Mar 8, 2008 11:00 am

Personally, I think that the white nile pesticide scenario fills the requirement pretty well - I posted to the VARlist to this effect. Here's that post:


I think that the non-disease hypothesis looks to better explain the facts at this point in the investigation. My addition would be to try and peg what it is. Several people have suggested pesticides and coming from the NY-NJ area, I know that West Nile Virus is still all the rage up there. People spray for that left and right. Of course, pesticides are necessarily deadly from the get-go. It takes several years for the trace amounts to build up in the system. The bigger the critter, the longer the build up. So lets go to Wikipedia and see when West Nile first came to the US (and presumably we started spraying for it.)

Oh dear - 1999. Eight years ago. Well, that's not conclusive in itself. Where did it first appear?
Oh dear - New York state.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_nile_virus#History
hey, look - there's even another page showing the number of outbreaks by state (a usable if not exact tracker of West Nile).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress_o ... ted_States

So basically, West Nile jumps from NY to the northeast - mid-atlantic, then down to Florida (all those senior citizens vacationing in Miami, probably) and then makes the trek across the country. The graphic is misleading in that it returns only a percentage and not a number. So as the numbers grow across the country, the per-state percentages drop.

I'd like to say two things about the graph. One - the graph shows occurances of the disease, not necessarily spraying. I can't think of a single time I've heard of anyone spraying for West Nile here in Morgantown - but turn on the news in NYC and you'll hear a story about it like once a week in the summer. This leads me to suggest that spraying is directly proportional to regional income. (i.e. we're too poor to spray, but the Hamptons spray every night). So some states are not meeting the minimum threshold for pesticides in their bats - or are lagging far behind. We won't see WNS in those states for awhile. Two - West Virginia in particular is never greater than 1% of the cases, and for several years have 0 cases. Which means we're not getting sick, so we're not spraying. Maybe its the different climate or something.

The previous was simply a possible scenario, but without more information, it's a very plausible scenario. A little further support would be great, though.

http://www.meepi.org/wnv/overkillma.htm
This is from the Maine Environmental Policy Institute - and here's an interesting little tidbit from the Executive Summary:

"The toxic pesticides proposed for spraying are harmful to human health, wildlife, and ecosystems. Children and the elderly are most susceptible to the effects of toxic pesticides. In both laboratory studies and occupational settings, the toxic pesticides being used for WNv mosquito control in Massachusetts have been known to cause short- and long-term respiratory problems, immune and nervous system disruption, cancer, and reproductive and learning disorders."

Short and Long term respiratory problems? Like, say pneumonia-like symptoms? Immune-system problems? Like, say 'not being able to fight off a fungus'? Here's more...

"Long-term spraying may actually increase the number of mosquitoes by destroying predators that feed on mosquito larvae and adults."

in other words, the buildup of pesticides in the bats will kill them.

Here's a description of what one of the toxins can do to you in high enough quantities:
"Synthetic pyrethroid compounds vary in their toxicity, as do the natural pyrethrins. Inhaling high levels of pyrethrum may bring about asthmatic breathing, sneezing, nasal stuffiness, headache, nausea, incoordination, tremors, convulsions, facial flushing and swelling, and burning and itching sensations. "

and here's an account by one person sprayed one time (accidentally) by the stuff: "A report in the New York Daily News (9/9/00) tells of a woman who was sprayed directly on the street in Manhattan with Anvil (sumithrin) and ended up in the emergency room after experiencing blurry vision, nausea, itching, coughing, choking and a swollen tongue. "I threw up three days in a row, I really thought I was going to die," said the unidentified woman."

Anyway, I'll leave you to read the article in its entirety (it is quite long). It could very well be that this argument, while seemingly conclusive now, could fall apart as new evidence is gathered. That's fine. In fact, its better than fine because it will eliminate one possibility. But I've been saying for awhile now that we should be looking for what has changed that is affecting the bats in this localized area, but is not spreading like we would expect a disease to spread. Heavy spraying for West Nile virus is definitely one thing which has changed. I only hope that the powers that be are seriously considering this possibility.

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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby NZcaver » Mar 8, 2008 1:24 pm

From the Star-Ledger (NJ) last week:

What's killing the bats next door?
by Brian Murray/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday March 05, 2008, 1:11 AM

Finding bats flapping around on a snowy, winter afternoon is more than strange. It's sick, and it's exactly what wildlife biologist Alan Hicks found last week as he visited a cave outside Rosendale, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley.

"It's snowing right now; there is snow on the ground, and the temperature is in the upper 20s -- and the bats are out. We also have dead bats on the ground, mostly little browns," he said. It was one more cave and one more confirmation of an alarming problem: Bats in the Northeast are dying, and no one is sure why.

<snip>

Lacking any evidence of bats being outside, the white fungus was pretty much all New Jersey zoologist Mick Valent had to go on two weeks ago. He and a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspected one of the largest and most famous hibernation spots -- the former Hibernia Mine in Rockaway Township. Six of the nine bat species that flutter in Northeastern skies are found hibernating there, including the Indiana bat, which is on the federal and state endangered species lists.

"We didn't find anything. We found a number of different bats in clusters. We were inside about an hour and a half, and it's something we'd see if it was there," said Valent, who is with New Jersey's Endangered and Non-Game Species Program. Valent plans to return in the spring, to see if the bats are leaving the caves as they should to begin their feeding season.

<snip>

"What we do know is, whatever this is, it is spread by the bats themselves. That seems clear."

Human activity, such as caving and spelunking, is probably not a contributing factor, experts said. The illness also does not appear to spread to humans, but precautions are being taken.

"We're asking people to stay out of areas where they believe bats may be hibernating, just in case there is a pathogen they could be spreading from cave to cave. It's just a precaution. We don't see any evidence yet that it's happening," Valent said.



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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Mar 8, 2008 8:18 pm

Hey, the Star Ledger! I paper I actually like back from when I lived in NJ - they interviewed me a couple of times. They're OK, journalistically, I think - not excellent, but not horrible. Therefore, is the following just bad reporting or Al Hicks exaggerating?

"Last year, when we first found this, we lost up to 18,000 bats. This year we're talking about 400,000. We've found problems in almost every cave in the state, with one exception in Syracuse," said Hicks, the mammal specialist for the New York Endangered Species Unit.


Seriously - every cave in the state? Which poor sap had to go count Bats in Rhodes?? lol...
(I really hope thats just a misquote)

Now this may be the most telling statement of the whole article:
Bats, like the world's disappearing frog and salamander populations, help nature maintain an ecological balance and assist agriculture by feeding on insects. Biologists contend a bat population of 100,000 eats upward of 21 tons of insects from spring to fall.


Oh, and I think I've figured out what's taking so long in finding out the problem - Less giving of the interviews, Al and more with the microscope, eh?
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby ArCaver » Mar 8, 2008 10:50 pm

I read a post on another board claiming a ten fold increase in sick bats in Texas from mosquito fogging in 2001. And the possibility that large numbers of dead and dying bats in Missouri in the 1960s in were caused by pesticide exposure causing premature fat depletion during hibernation. Maybe the current situation isn't as unprecedented as we've been lead to believe. Maybe no one payed attention to the nose fungus in the past. Sure, I can buy the West Nile connection, but I wouldn't discount the climate theory. Earlier this winter I listened to someone who, although he is not a wildlife biologist, has been involved in the study of caves and the inhabitants of caves for several decades. He proposed that the documented rise in average temps would effect bats in higher latitudes more than southern populations because the southern bats are acclimated to higher temperatures. That's not to say there will be no problems in the south, just that the issues may surface first in the north and spread southward. I also remember someone in an earlier post saying that if the bats wake due to warming that the food source (flying insects) would also be awake. It's just possible the insects normally consumed in he spring are able to stay dormant or remain in a pupal stage a little longer than bats stay asleep. The difference may be days, or perhaps only hours. By the time the temps drop a few degrees and the bats should re-enter hibernation they may not have fed well enough to prevent starvation.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Mar 8, 2008 11:40 pm

I think one of the problems of bats waking up in the middle of the winter in large numbers and trying to get food is no one has noticed them - not the bat people doing counts, not the cavers visiting recreationally, no one. Not until January for two years straight. And not across whole latitudes, but in one spot. So, it's not affecting the bats farther north than NY and its not affecting the bats due west. Just in this one area.
I guess its possible that climate is a contributing factor, but I don't think that climate can be anything like the primary culprit. The end-result would be far more spread out.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby ArCaver » Mar 9, 2008 7:04 am

It's a system. If the climate warms, insect numbers and possibly range increase. If the insects are vectors for pathogens that effect humanity there is a perceived need for more pesticides. The pesticides kill not only the pest but also the natural controls through toxicity and starvation and suddenly more pesticides are needed. Unfortunately the general public looks at the problem and thinks that we can do without the strange little mammals and birds that fly around in the dark as long as we can poison the bitting little insects. If the problem is tied to oil and gas exploration as suggested by a poster on another board then forget it. No one in America can stop the giant sucking sound of carbon being forced from the ground to the atmosphere where it contributes to, guess what? Higher average temps. Besides, if the public reads the press releases and see that cavers have been asked to stay out of caves because they may be spreading a disease to bats then they'll always have that as a fall back position: “We didn't cause the problem by spraying or drilling, those spelunkers caused it!” From this point forward there will always be some who blame cavers for the die off of bats and any subsequent increase in insect population no matter what cause the researches find, assuming they can find the cause. The caving community may turn out to be the sort of scape goat that politicians and industry PR people live for.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby tncaver » Mar 9, 2008 7:17 am

The spraying for mosquitoes scenario makes a lot of sense. Localized spraying of mosquitoes killing off bats in a localized
area because their food source is tainted. This would also be the easiest problem to correct. Stop spraying for mosquitoes
in areas near caves.
The possibility that cavers will get the blame due to overzealous "conservationists" is also a possibility. What an ideal
way to permanently close a bunch of caves to caving. The spreading of false rumors creating a panic that landowners
will believe in.
Sounds like a plan that could have been thought up at a conservation cafe. Go figure. Just what was that caving conservation
cafe all about anyway? :hitsfan:
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby ArCaver » Mar 9, 2008 7:27 am

tncaver wrote:The spraying for mosquitoes scenario makes a lot of sense. Localized spraying of mosquitoes killing off bats in a localized
area because their food source is tainted. This would also be the easiest problem to correct. Stop spraying for mosquitoes
in areas near caves.
The possibility that cavers will get the blame due to overzealous "conservationists" is also a possibility. What an ideal
way to permanently close a bunch of caves to caving. The spreading of false rumors creating a panic that landowners
will believe in.
Sounds like a plan that could have been thought up at a conservation cafe. Go figure. Just what was that caving conservation
cafe all about anyway? :hitsfan:


It's not conservationists I'm worried about. It's John Q. Public speed reading the morning paper or listening to the evening news. If an industry was to blame but put out press releases stating "No causative agents have been identified, BUT the US FWS had suspected cavers were carrying it at one time and they may still be..." Well, you get the idea.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby hewhocaves » Mar 9, 2008 8:59 am

ArCaver -

I agree with the point you're making. The problem could very well be two-fold and both causes be anthropogenic. However, I think the emphasis should be on the more immediate problem of the pesticide spraying because it seems to be the more immediate thread and its something that can be altered in a reasonable amount of time. You could argue that bats could continue to thrive in a warmer environment (they might actually benefit from a larger insect population) but would be less likely to thrive if their food sources are being poisoned on a regular basis. In fact, I don't know much that will live on heavily poisoned food.

And to stray a little off topic regarding Global Warming - the scales that we're talking about (2-3 years of warm weather) are inappropriate from the global warming idea. GW is more applicable on the order of centuries (i.e. the little ice age (c1500-1850) was colder than the present (by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit)). Individual years were warm or cold, but the overall trend was a colder one. Now global climate change is not necessarily a bad thing - there's been considerable global cooling for the last 20MY or so, ending up with the ice ages. And back in the Carboniferous (300+ MYA), it was way warmer than it is now. So the entire earth system has a considerable amount of 'wiggle room'.
The trouble starts in that we have based out entire society on the climate remaining as static as possible - and we've chosen about the year 1900 as an arbitrary date as a baseline. Well, nature loves to wreck havoc with species that are stuck to a specific niche - which, sadly, is exactly what we've become. On the other hand, all this excess carbon in the atmosphere may long term raise sea level significantly (i keep waiting to use my gondola down 5th Avenue) which may promote increased coral activity at higher latitudes. The end result may be more caves in a few tens of millions of years. In a way, we building caves for the future :tonguecheek:. Hopefully, the insects that replace us will be cavers.

Lastly, the word 'Anthropocene' has been used on occasion to geologically describe the period of history since we've been mucking about with the planet. The idea is that the 'Holocene', the last period usually named, ended at about the 1800s, and since then this new period of geologic history has begun.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropocene
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Re: New map posted for WNS

Postby wyandottecaver » Mar 10, 2008 6:46 pm

Image
Last edited by wyandottecaver on Mar 12, 2008 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby NZcaver » Mar 12, 2008 10:54 am

This recent article on the Earthfiles website has some good WNS updates and summaries of research findings to date:

Mysterious Bat Deaths in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts

© 2008 by Linda Moulton Howe

“I have yet to meet a bat biologist anywhere in North America
who does not say, ‘Oh, wow! This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.’”
– Alan Hicks, N. Y. Dept. of Environmental Conservation



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Re: Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Postby VACaver » Mar 12, 2008 11:08 am

The March 7th issue of the "Roanoke Star-Sentinel" contains a column by Fred
First entitled "Animal diseases:Symptoms of an unwell planet" and contains the
following statement about WNS...

"While it is likely that human cavers (perhaps wearing boots they wore days
before in caves on another continent) brought the unknown organism into the
first infected caves, the bats pass it amongst themselves".

I don't know who Fred First is, or what source he used to make such a comment. But this is exactly the kind of misinformation we don't need spread to the public.

Perhaps we could let Fred know that such comments are harmful to the WNS
research and relations between cavers and cave owners.

His e-mail is: fred1st@gmail.com

The column can be read at: http://www.theroanokestar.com/ Click on the
"click here read this weeks issue".
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