In an article I did back in June, I reported the possession limit for most fish species in Wisconsin is three times the daily bag limit.  The possession limit is the maximum number of a species that you can control, transport, etc., at any time. It is twice the total daily bag limit.

The Disappearance of Bats in Wisconsin Due to White-Nose Syndrome

Last weekend at a family reunion, I noticed the absence of bats as we sat and reminisced around the fire.  Bats, once a common and vital component of Wisconsin’s ecosystem, are facing a dire threat: White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). This devastating disease, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), has been spreading rapidly across North America, including Wisconsin. As the state’s bat population declines at an alarming rate, it is crucial to understand the impact of WNS and the measures being taken to mitigate its effects on these invaluable creatures.

White-Nose Syndrome: A Silent Killer

White-Nose Syndrome earned its name from the distinctive white fungal growth that appears on the muzzles and wings of infected bats. It primarily affects hibernating bats during the winter months when they are in a state of torpor in caves and mines. The fungus irritates the bats, causing them to wake up frequently during hibernation. These frequent arousals lead to a rapid depletion of their energy reserves, ultimately resulting in death from starvation or freezing.

First identified in Wisconsin in 2014, WNS has since spread rapidly throughout the state. The disease is thought to have been introduced to North America from Europe, where European bats have developed some resistance to the fungus. Unfortunately, North American bats, including those in Wisconsin, have little to no immunity to this deadly pathogen.

Impact on Wisconsin’s Bats and Ecosystem

The impact of WNS on Wisconsin’s bat populations has been devastating. The once-thriving bat populations have been decimated, with several species now facing the threat of extinction. Among the most affected species are the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), and the tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus).

Bats play an essential role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations, including pests that damage crops. With the significant decline in bat populations, there is a potential for an increase in insect populations, leading to negative consequences for agriculture and the environment.

Research and Conservation Efforts

In response to the alarming decline of bats due to WNS, Wisconsin’s wildlife authorities and conservation organizations have initiated several research and conservation efforts.

  1. Monitoring and Surveillance: Researchers actively monitor bat populations in caves and mines throughout the state to track the spread of WNS and understand its effects on different bat species.
  2. Public Awareness and Education: Public awareness campaigns have been launched to educate communities about the importance of bats and the threats they face. This includes promoting the proper decontamination of clothing and equipment used in caves to prevent the spread of the fungus.
  3. Cave Restrictions: Some caves and mines in Wisconsin have been closed to the public to limit the transmission of the fungus from one location to another.
  4. Research on Treatment: Scientists are working to find ways to combat the spread of WNS, including researching potential treatments or vaccines that could offer protection to bats.

The disappearance of bats in Wisconsin due to White-Nose Syndrome is a concerning ecological crisis that demands immediate attention. As bat populations continue to decline, the repercussions on Wisconsin’s ecosystem and agricultural sector become more apparent.

By promoting public awareness, conducting research, and implementing conservation measures, there is hope for preserving these incredible flying mammals and the invaluable ecological services they provide. Only through a concerted effort by all stakeholders can we hope to mitigate the impact of WNS and secure a brighter future for Wisconsin’s bats.

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land & Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at .