Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 23, 2017

Contact: Mollie Matteson, (802) 318-1487,

Fungus That Has Killed Millions of Bats Found in Texas

Two Western Bat Species Discovered With White-nose Syndrome-causing Fungus for First Time

AUSTIN, Texas— A fungus that has killed millions of bats in North America has been confirmed in the Lone Star state, Texas wildlife officials announced today.

The fungus, which is the pathogen that causes white-nose syndrome, was also found for the first time on two new bat species: the cave myotis and a western subspecies of Townsend's big-eared bat.

“The discovery of the white-nose fungus in Texas is a biological disaster and potentially an economic one, too,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “With hundreds of caves, unique cave ecosystems and huge, world-famous colonies of bats, Texas stands to lose a rich natural heritage — plus the free pest control services of thousands of bats.”

Most bats in North America are voracious hunters of insects, including those that attack farm crops and timber stands. Scientists have estimated the economic value of insect-eating bats to American agriculture at $22 billion annually. Bat guano is essential to the survival of extremely rare cave organisms like cave salamanders and fish.

The cave myotis and Townsend's big-eared bat have large western ranges, and the discovery of the fungus on them marks a turning point in the westward spread of the bat malady. Just last week white-nose syndrome was announced for the first time in Nebraska. Last spring the disease was reported for the first time on the West Coast, in Washington state.

There are now 30 states and five Canadian provinces where the disease has been reported. The fungus has been found in Oklahoma, Mississippi and now Texas, but no incident of the white-nose disease has yet been documented.

White-nose syndrome was first discovered in 2006 in a cave near Albany, N.Y. It has since spread across the eastern, southern and midwestern United States and is now encroaching on the West. Although no sickened or dead bats have been found in Texas yet, diseased and dead bats will be showing up there within the next two to three years if the same pattern that has been documented elsewhere is repeated.

The bat disease has afflicted seven bat species so far. With the fungus now reported in Texas and discovered for the first time on two western bat species, bats in the West are being hemmed in on two sides by the advancing lines of the disease. Scientists do not know how western bat species, such as the cave myotis and Townsend's big-eared bat, will fare.

Many leading bat biologists have emphasized precautionary measures, such as cave closures and site-specific caving gear requirements, as the best management responses.

The Center filed a petition in 2010 to close all caves and abandoned mines on federally controlled lands in the lower 48 states, keeping all but essential human activity out of caves. Such closures also would reduce disturbance of vulnerable hibernating or roosting bats.

The disease-causing fungus — an exotic, invasive species — was likely originally brought to North America from Europe more than a decade ago. Illustrating its destructiveness, it was first found in eastern Nebraska in 2015. The discovery of the disease two years later follows a now well-established pattern in which the fungus appears at bat wintering sites a few years before bats actually become sickened and die.

White-nose syndrome has resulted in dramatic declines among several bat species. The disease has caused mortality rates ranging up to 100 percent among bats in affected caves. The northern long-eared bat, tricolored bat, little brown bat and Indiana bat are the hardest-hit species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species in 2015, primarily because of the ravages of the disease. The Service is currently considering protecting the tricolored bat and the little brown bat, both of which have also drastically declined. The Indiana bat was listed as endangered decades prior to the arrival of white-nose syndrome, but the bat disease has exacerbated its tenuous hold on survival.

White-nose syndrome is passed from one bat to another, or from the cave environment to bats, but it also likely spreads when people inadvertently carry it from one cave to another on their shoes, clothes or equipment.

Learn more about white-nose syndrome in this FAQ.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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