White-Nose Syndrome Surveillance

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The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) assists State, Federal, and Tribal wildlife agencies nationwide with early detection of Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), and addresses specific research priorities identified by partners in conjunction with the White-Nose Syndrome National Plan.

A moist swab is passed over the surface of the forearm and muzzle of each bat.

A moist swab is passed over the surface of the forearm and muzzle of each bat. The swab will be analyzed in the lab for the presence of Pseudogymnoascus destructans DNA. (Credit: Katrien Werner, USGS National Wildlife Health Center. Public domain.)

During annual bat population surveys, participating agencies collect swabs of bat skin, guano, hibernaculum sediment, and environmental substrate. If clinical signs of white-nose syndrome (WNS) are observed in the population, carcasses or wing biopsies from affected bats are collected for diagnostic testing.

Preliminary characterization of risk factors associated with Pd movement suggest that new detections are related to the distance to nearest known Pd-positive sites and only mildly associated with the size of a site’s hibernating bat population. We are also investigating use of community guano samples from summer roosts for Pd surveillance. This strategy has particularly utility for areas where bat hibernation sites are not known or are difficult to access.

Tables are placed below bat boxes to collect guano from roosting bats during spring/summer.

Tables are placed below bat boxes to collect guano from roosting bats during spring/summer. NWHC is investigating use of community guano samples from summer roosts for Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) surveillance. (Credit: Kyle George, USGS National Wildlife Health Center. Public domain.)

In 2012 NWHC scientists collected swabs from bat wings, cave walls, and equipment used in and near study sites in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia. They also collected guano from individual bats and sediment from the floor of underground summer roost sites. NWHC scientists found that bats occupying hibernation sites in summer can harbor Pd on their skin, and that Pd is more readily detectable in their guano. More findings are summarized in a USGS News Release: Deadly fungus affecting hibernating bats could spread during summer.

 

Despite active national surveillance efforts to detect the spread of WNS, the 2016 detection of WNS in Washington State illustrates the ongoing importance of investigating wildlife mortality events as part of a comprehensive wildlife disease surveillance strategy, and wildlife managers are encouraged to report unusual bat mortality or bats displaying clinical signs suggestive of WNS to the NWHC for further investigation. NWHC can also answer questions about designing WNS surveillance and response plans relevant to your state and help with testing samples collected as part of opportunistic or targeted surveillance efforts in accordance with the national Pd surveillance strategy.

If you are a private individual or entity with a question about white-nose syndrome in your area, please contact your state department of natural resources or state agency of game and fish. A list of State and Federal agencies can be found at fishwildlife.org.

If you are from a State, Federal, or Tribal agency, please see more information on reporting mortality events and submitting samples related to white-nose syndrome.  Tribal, State, and Federal agencies with questions about ongoing surveillance efforts, or who may wish to participate, should contact nwhc-epi@usgs.gov.

More resources on white-nose syndrome surveillance: