White-nose syndrome, the disease decimating bat populations in the Northeast and beyond, is believed to have spread to all known bat caves in New York, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The fungal disease has reduced the populations of some bat species in the state by 90 percent since it was first documented in 2008.
The Graphite Mine in Hague, once the largest hibernaculum in the state, has been especially hard hit. The number of little brown bats has fallen from 185,000 to 2,000, DEC says. Two other species, the northern bat and the endangered Indiana bat, have disappeared from the mine entirely. Another, the tri-colored bat, has been reduced to a lone specimen.
DEC surveyed hibernacula early this year. “Caves and mines that avoided infection in the early years of the disease, perhaps by chance, are now infected,” acting DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz said in a news release. “This year’s survey included hibernation sites that had not been visited by DEC in decades. What we found was disturbing. We now have sampled sites that represent the full range of environmental conditions across the state—and none have been spared. It is likely the sites not yet inspected are infected as well.”
But the populations held steady in two caves in the Capital Region, albeit at at roughly 10 percent of their pre-disease count. “Infected animals were present at these two sites, so it’s too early to say the decline here has halted,” said DEC bat biologist Carl Herzog, “but these two caves represent the most hopeful results in an otherwise negative report.”
DEC is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find ways to treat the disease and check its spread.
Click here to learn more about white-nose syndrome.