White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease affecting hibernating bats across the eastern United States, was first documented in New York in 2006 and has killed millions of bats since. WNS presents itself as a fungus that forms on the muzzle and other parts of the affected bat, alters normal behavioral characteristics, and ultimately leads to death. While little is known about the cause or cure for WNS, there has been recent progress in raising public awareness of the disease, particularly in the political arena.
The House Natural Resource Committee’s Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held an oversight hearing on 24 June 2011 entitled “Why We Should Care About Bats: Devastating Impact White-Nose Syndrome is Having on One of Nature’s Best Pest Controllers.” A webcast of the hearing can be found at: http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=246794
Efforts of Bat Conservation International (BCI) to obtain funding for WNS in the House’s FY12 DOI-EPA Appropriations budget failed, but BCI was encouraged by the mention of WNS under the US Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services section of the bill. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has yet to mark up its own FY12 bill, but Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) plans to ask the subcommittee for funding to address WNS.
Opportunity for action: Contact a senate subcommittee member and urge them to consider funding for WNS. A list of the subcommittee members can be found at: http://appropriations.senate.gov/sc-interior.cfm
More information on WNS can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/about.html