DNR awarded grant to help fight white-nose syndrome in bats

Courtesy:  Michigan DNR

LANSING — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that it has been awarded a grant of $52,500 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for work on white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by an invasive fungus that only afflicts bats. The DNR is among 30 state natural resource agencies awarded a total of $1,276,088 in grants for projects to research, monitor bat populations for, and detect and respond to WNS.

First discovered in New York in 2006, WNS was confirmed in bats in Michigan in April 2014. The disease has now been found in five Michigan counties: Alpena, Dickinson, Keweenaw, Mackinac and Ontonagon. Nationally, 11 species of bat have been infected and more than 6 million bats have died. Some bat colonies in the northeast U.S. have experienced die-offs in excess of 90 percent.

“Several species of bats are at risk from WNS,” said Bill Scullon, DNR wildlife biologist. “This grant will enable the DNR to continue critical work in responding to this rapidly spreading disease.”

In 2010, the DNR, along with the agency’s federal and nongovernmental partners, developed Michigan’s WNS Response Plan. The plan outlined two main pillars: 1) prevent the arrival and spread of WNS as long as possible by mitigating the human-assisted movement of the fungus that causes the disease; and 2) conserve bat populations that remain after the disease has arrived.

The grant funds will be used to continue disease surveillance and testing, population monitoring, protection of hibernacula (abandoned underground mines and caves), public outreach and education, and to fund staff time for wildlife biologists involved.

“White-nose syndrome has spread rapidly from one state in 2006 to 25 states and five Canadian provinces this year,” said Dr. Jeremy Coleman, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national WNS coordinator. “These grants provide essential support to our state partners in preparing for and responding to this disease. The research, monitoring, and actions made possible by these grants have yielded valuable results and insights for our national response to white-nose syndrome.”

Funding for grants was provided through the Endangered Species Recovery and Science Applications programs.

More information about WNS is available at www.michigan.gov/wns or www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.