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Bat Found with White-Nose Syndrome a First for Martha's Vineyard

Gabrielle Graeter/NCWRC bit.ly/2nAJl75
File photo of a Northern Long-eared bat found dead, with confirmed white-nose syndrome.

In the last 10 years, the population of Northern Long-eared bats has been decimated by a disease called white-nose syndrome. Until recently, Martha’s Vineyard was one of just a few spots believed to be free of the disease. Now researchers on the island have confirmed a bat with this fungal disease.

Luanne Johnson, director of the Martha's Vineyard-based wildlife group BiodiversityWorksspeaks to Steve Junker about this initial case, and what it may mean for the island’s bat population. The full conversation is posted above.

The bat was sighted, netted, and tagged on February 19th, an unusually warm day. It was under a roof trim board on a shed in Oak Bluffs. Within 36 hours of tagging, it was found dead, having failed to seek warm enough shelter when the temperature dropped.

A necropsy by the National Wildlife Health Center confirmed that the bat had white-nose syndrome. Researchers are uncertain whether the bat came from an established Martha's Vineyard population, or whether it had flown over from Cape Cod in the mild weather.

White-nose syndrome was confirmed on Cape Cod in 2013, but until now had not been found on Martha's Vineyard. Biologists have wondered whether the disease had simply not reached the island, or whether bats from the local area were responding differently to the fungus.

Since it was first observed in 2006, white-nose syndrome has caused greater than 90% declines in Northern Long-eared bats in many winter roosts in New England.

The disease does not pose a danger to humans pets, or other wildlife. 

Steve is Managing Editor of News. He came to WCAI in 2007. He also hosts the weekly News Roundup on Friday mornings and produces The Fishing News.