Biologists have confirmed the first known case of White-nose Syndrome east of the Cascades in a bat colony near Cle Elum.
White-nose Syndrome gets its name because of the white discoloration it causes on the noses of bats. Much of the disease is still a mystery, but it is lethal for bats. It infects their skin, creates holes in their wings and causes them to wake up early from hibernation. They lose valuable fat stores, suffer from dehydration and die.
“This area where we just had our recent confirmation in Kittitas County is not very far from North Bend. It really is just over the pass. So very close proximity to where we have found most of our cases before,” said Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Communication Manager Rachel Blomker.
“Biologists came to check out the colony and indeed they counted more than 750 bats there. The landowner said also that he found these bats and so he submitted them to us, gave us four back carcasses to send in for testing.”
So far, western Washington bats have suffered the brunt of the disease with cases confirmed in King, Pierce and Lewis counties.
“Those habitats on the eastern side are much more similar to eastern states. We have seen huge devastation in eastern states when it comes to White-nose Syndrome where it can eliminate up to 100% of a colony,” Blomker said.
White-nose Syndrome has been documented in North America since 2006, and since then has killed millions of bats, which serves as an important part of healthy ecosystems.
“Bats are eating millions of insects every night and they range from mosquitoes to moths. These insects can damage agricultural crops. They can damage forests and tree health," Blomker said. “They provide us free pest control services. In the United States, the numbers are around $3 billion every year that bats provide pest control services to farmers.”
The public is asked to report any signs of White-nose Syndrome. If you'd like more information about how to stop the spread of the disease by decontaminating clothes and gear when in possible areas of infection, visit the White-Nose Syndrome Response Team.