White nose syndrome confirmed in PEI
A northern long-eared bat that was recently found dead in Prince Edward Island (PEI) has been confirmed to have been infected with Geomyces destructans, the fungus which causes white nose syndrome, (WNS). This is the first time that the disease has been detected in this province and it is a significant upset to everyone following the rapid progression of this disease in North America. This is the fifth Canadian province to have confirmed WNS in its bat populations.
Dr. Scott McBurney, a pathologist for the Atlantic Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre office, has been involved with WNS surveillance in the region since it was originally detected there in 2011 and was the person who examined the first bat diagnosed with WNS in PEI.
“This is the most catastrophic wildlife disease that’s affected a wildlife population… in my lifetime” says Mcburney, “It’s catastrophic because its affecting so many different species of bats and because of the level of mortality associated with the infection.”
Dr. McBurney is not the only one to share this sentiment. Since it’s initial detection in North America in 2006, WNS has killed as many as 6.7 million bats. Three species of previously common North American bat species have now been recommended to be listed as endangered species in Canada in an effort to help protect the remaining populations.
The Atlantic CCWHC office has since received a number of other bats from other regions of the province that also initially appear to have been infected with WNS.
The ecological and economic importance of bats is definitely undervalued in North America. As scientists and researchers rapidly work toward finding answers on how to decrease the impact of the disease on bat populations, they also ask for public support to report sick or dead bats, protect the remaining bat populations and their habitats and to spread awareness of WNS in Canada.
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