Friday, February 8, 2008

Tech biologist on the mystery bat disease

This note below was just forwarded to me. My thanks to Mike Purdy for the heads-up. It's a letter from Dr. James Parkhurst, wildlife biologist at Virginia Tech. We've already noted the issue on this blog.


I wanted to call to your attention an emerging and potentially serious situation involving bat populations throughout the Northeast that experts here in Virginia currently are monitoring. I have provided a link to an article that recently appeared in the Boston Globe, near where the epicenter of this problem currently exists (predominantly in New York and Vermont so far) that provides some useful background information on the situation as it now exists.

To the best of our knowledge at this time, the disease has not yet been documented or confirmed in Virginia, but efforts to validate that are underway. Therefore, for now, this is only a cautionary note to get this situation on your "radar screen." As you will note in the article, this outbreak is having serious consequences on bat populations in the affected states, where tens of thousands of bats have succumbed to the disease. In an effort to avoid the potential spread of the disease, should it come to this area or already be present in our area, experts are recommending that people refrain from entering any caves or abandoned mines over the next several months, primarily as a means to avoid further taxing the energy stores of hibernating bats. Bats very often are disturbed by intruders, which forces them to expend important energy reserves needed to get them through the full winter hibernation cycle.

If you know of any individuals or groups in your area who frequent caves, please pass along this notice. If anyone has visited a cave recently and witnessed what appeared to be an unusually large number of
dead or sick bats, or bats that may have displayed the characteristic "white frosting" about the nasal area, please have them contact one of two individuals within the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Rick Reynolds, Non-Game Biologist and bat specialist (, or Jonathan Sleeman, wildlife veterinarian for the agency ( Specific details of the cave(s) involved, dates of contact, and description of symptoms witnessed would be most helpful.

I will keep you posted on any new twists as they become available. To reiterate, there is no immediate threat or danger to most residents, but special caution would be advised for those who are active spelunkers.

James A. Parkhurst, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist
144 Cheatham Hall
Virginia Tech

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