MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A national organization of recreational cavers is questioning a new estimate of the number of bats killed by a mysterious ailment that is spreading across the country.

The estimate by state and federal scientists said 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats had died across the Northeast from what’s known as white nose syndrome. But that estimate, released this month, is flawed and could lead to unnecessary restrictions on access to caves across the country, said Peter Youngbear, a Vermont-based official with the National Speleological Society.

“This is extremely important as this number is likely to drive significant wildlife and land management decisions,” Youngbear wrote in a letter to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Decisions about closing caves, which would impact local economies, will be made based on the estimates, he pointed out.

“It is imperative that it be as accurate and defensible as possible,” Youngbear wrote.

The federal government defended the estimate. If anything, it’s too low, said Ann Froschauer, the Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman on white nose issues.

“The group of biologists from the Northeast and from university and research institutions that came together have many, many years of experience in working with bats,” she said.

White nose is caused by a fungus that prompts bats to wake from their winter hibernation and die when they fly into the winter landscape in search of food that isn’t there. First spotted in New York six years ago, it’s been found in 16 states and four Canadian provinces.

It’s nearly wiped out some species. One of the hardest-hit is the little brown bat, once the most common bat in the Northeast and found across the country, in much of Canada and north into Alaska.

So far, biologists have been unable to prevent its spread.

“The spread is epic at this point. We’re halfway across the country,” Froschauer said. “… We have no indication it’s slowing down.”

The federal government has closed caves and mines that it controls and where bats hibernate, but it doesn’t have the authority to close caves on private property or those owned by the states or other federal agencies.

Froschauer acknowledged that recreational cavers are frustrated.

The Alabama-based Speleological Society has about 10,000 members nationwide and more than 200 chapters. The organization has helped study white nose and it is committed to “limiting its impact on cave organisms” while ensuring restrictions on cave access are warranted.

The group doesn’t believe the science supports the increase from a previous estimate of about 1 million dead bats.

“We just haven’t seen those mass bat mortalities. We saw them early on. So either last year’s number was grossly understated and we should know why or something else is amiss here,” Youngbear said.

Youngbear said his organization had voluntarily closed caves it controls across the Northeast and it’s encouraging responsible caving, such as disinfecting equipment before moving from one cave to another or using separate equipment.

Though his group doesn’t believe closing caves stops the spread of disease, “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions,” he said. “We strongly support cleaning and decontamination protocols for any bat researcher and anyone going into a cave.”

The 16 states where the disease has been found are: Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (76)
  1. Chuck D of Valpo says:

    Just a guess but could it be due to the mild winter?

    1. Van Sherman says:

      Not here in NH. Its been going on since 2008 and has virtually wiped out little brown bat in our parts – with several average to hard winters in-between then and now. Very sad as they are a critical component to the ecosystem, especially in keeping mosquito pops down. Needless to say the mosquitos have been significantly more numerous in recent years.

      1. reno says:

        Use some OFF for the skiters you TOOL

      2. Hillbilly Howie says:

        This is nothing but a load of nonsense by some broke scientists, angling for govt. grant money. They completely made up the entire story and falsified the data, just like the global warming scam scientists did

      3. mfirebrand1 says:

        Chem Trails are dropping fungus to the earth along with other deadly culprits.

      4. Big D says:

        No such thinks as Chem Trails. I have been flying jets for 30 yrs. Do some science research on combustion and cooling of water. I see it from cars and trucks on cold mornings. it happens when you open your freezer too.

  2. Jack Kinch(1uncle) says:

    ‘Report: Nearly 7 Million Bats Died Across Northeast From Mysterious Disease’.
    Is Robin OK?

    1. Grandpa says:

      Since most single women these days have bats living inside their heads along with squirrels, this will be great news for homeless flying squirrels seeking shelter.

      1. Peter York says:

        Absolutely, Grandpa. Ab-so-lute-ly.

  3. BobStrebs says:

    A scientist called in to coasttocoastam (dot com) radio show on Jan 27, and commented on the chemical aerosol spraying in our atmosphere as a possible cause for this bat plague. This thought rankles the status quo because the status quo, the “They,” are severely invested in this chemical pollution of our atmosphere.

    1. blagostwin says:

      Glenns got the answer he’s just not telling anybody, LOL

      1. Albert Gore Jr. says:

        These scientists must make a film showing empty caves. Just like we made a film once showing lonely polar bears floating on forgotten chunks of ice, headed for peril. (pssst, just don’t mention you made the whole thing up!)

  4. blagostwin says:

    There is obviously some type of contaminate in the eco system. GMO crops infecting the insect population? How about the massive aresol spraying of tyhe atmosphere? I know one thing if the Bats

    1. glenp says:

      WOW!!! a WAG from a braindead blogger!! no evidence no knowledge of any subject and yet he attempts to solve a mystery !!!

      1. blagostwin says:

        WOW another genius comment by a know nothing contributor his only response is rancor with no intelligence to go with it, must be an eastern liberal. Like I said you’re just a blow hard with no answer

      2. glenp says:

        no my response was to a blowhard know nothing who has ridiculous solutions that aren’t

        OBTW the cause of this disease is THE WHITE NOSE FUNGUS

      3. blagostwin says:

        OK then know it all give us the cause of the disease? You can’t can you?

      4. Phillip Jordan says:

        The disease is caused by a fungus named Geomyces destructans. The disease is called White Nose Syndrome. The name came from the first people who noticed it on bats. The fungus collects around the nose, ears, and wings of North American cave bats. The fungus is white and the people who discovered it thought the bats looked like they had white noses. The agent involved with the spreading of this disease is most likely human cavers. Europe has the same species of fungus on their bats, but their bats don’t die like ours do. The theory is that cavers from NA went caving in an infected cave in Europe and transported it to a cave in NA. From there it was bat to bat transmission and several instances of humans carrying the fungus to other caves in NA. We DON’T know how to stop this disease. It is a hardy fungus that is not easy to stop. People need to be made aware of this disease and avoid caves that house populations of bats. If a person must go into caves follow the correct WNS Decontamination Protocol found on the USFWS website. This is the worst wildlife disease in human history. It trumps all the oil spills this nation has had combined

    2. NY9Solyndra says:

      “There is obviously some type of contaminate in the eco system. ”

      Then it would not be spread from colony to colony but would appear randomly across the country.

  5. jpelle82 says:

    this is nothing new and its not just in the north east. its a fungal infection and its going to be a major problem for pollenation. honeybees are already going the way of the dinosaurs, if we lose bats too we will have huge environmental reprecussions

    1. NY9Solyndra says:

      you’re welcome

  6. jpelle82 says:

    enjoy the increase in mosquito population this summer everyone!

  7. Obama in 2012 says:

    Bush did it.

    1. Baldy Kirby from Atlanta says:


      Wonder if this could be a PROGRESSIVE virus?

      One could only hope!

    2. NY9Solyndra says:

      Surely the Tea Party is involved.

      And some blame needs to be spread to Reagan, Millard Fillmore, and Abraham Lincoln.

  8. glenp says:

    I say it’s due to BUSH’S MAN MADE GLOBAL WARMING!!! BUSH did it!!

    if only he had spent trillions on global warming we wouldn’t have this blight!!

    1. Glenn says:

      This is funnier than the “Is Robin OK?” post. LOL!!

    2. blagostwin says:

      Tell us all what causes White Nose Fungus genius? Other than your absurd comments.

  9. glenp says:

    you know it’s probably the INCREASE SOLAR ACTIVITY!!!!! you see there could even be global warming ON THE SUN!!!! it was BUSH pushing those SUV sales vs promoting the VOLT!!!

    1. NY9Solyndra says:

      Can’t tell from looking at her.

  10. glenp says:

    7 million is nothing haven’t I seen swarms of bats from caves that exceed that?

    probably overpopulation because not ALL bats have died—just means more food for the survivors

  11. zul says:

    Millions of a species die because of a disease or some other phenomenon and your all cracking jokes? Would you still be doing so if this was effecting humans?

    1. glenp says:

      I’d be chortling if something was killing off all you buttcheeses

      1. zul says:

        Also, i never said to stop cracking jokes. Do you always see words that are not there?

      2. Greg B says:

        You first, evil one.

    2. glenp says:

      your displeasure at jokes because of this DIRE CRISIS implies you want it stopped and we shouldn’t crack jokes with human tragedy also. Face it you got caught being a buttcheese

  12. glenp says:

    I saw the story about bees’ colony collapse syndrome caused by “zombie flies” that lay eggs in the bees and then eat their way out throught the bee head

  13. glenp says:

    L________> crying now because zul said we needed to and stop cracking jokes!!


  14. NVRAT says:

    Maybe Mother nature is just taking a natural course of action.

  15. brad says:

    Another false notion pushed by the liberals and their do-gooder logic . There is no connection between white nose and humans like there was not connection between DDT and aviary egg shells which led to millions dying of malaria. With all the guano lining the caves occupied by bats, it is the human’s health at risk, not the bats.

    1. NY9Solyndra says:

      Bats consume huge numbers of insects. Without bats, farmers would have to spend a lot more money on insecticides.

      1. glenp says:

        or perhaps spend the SAME AMOUNT on insecticides and just have more dead insect bodies.

      2. NY9Solyndra says:

        Science magazine estimates the value of bats to the agricultural community at $22.9B/year.

      3. NY9Solyndra says:

        Science magazine also estimated the value of bats to be about $74/acre.

      4. Phillip Jordan says:

        You’re correct! Many well respected bat biologist figured that bats in the U.S. save farmers somewhere in the tune of $30billion. Just in Arkansas (where I live and where WNS is on our northern and eastern border) bats provide farmers here with an estimated $500million in pesticide savings and protection from agriculture pest. If farmers have to spend more and more on pesticides then our cotton, corn, soybeans, etc.. will cost more. Not to mention the fact that more pesticides equals more pesticide resistant insects. Think about it, it is a serious problem.
        Oh and the photo above is of old world fruit bats. These bats aren’t being affected by this disease, it is only a North American cave bat problem. CBS Connecticut don’t find some random photo from the internet and assume that is the correct species. Do some fact checking before you report something like this.

  16. Fooksie says:

    I think it’s silly to talk about a disease that affects the Little Brown Bat, and yet the accompanying picture is one of Flying Foxes. Nice research work there, Lou.

  17. Blob says:

    Oh come on, Youngbear. Just how much do spelunkers contribute to the state’s economy on a yearly basis? Probably less than bungie jumpers.

  18. glenp says:

    I wonder if it could possibly caused by THE WHITE NOSE FUNGUS?

  19. glenp says:

    I ate some “Flying foxes” when I was on Guam aka FRUIT BATS

    tasted like chicken with hair

  20. Victor says:

    Government Scientists also swear to Global Cooling , Global Warming, Violence in the Society is rising exponentially falling precipitously… et cetera , ad nausem..

    We have a Presstitute Media and now our Scientists are whoring themselves for grants..

    Anything to justify spending more tax payer money to accomplish less.

    1. glenp says:

      PRESSTITUTE?? and I thought I was going to learn a new REAL word

  21. Dutch says:

    The Joker is alive and well!

  22. TB says:

    TPTB are closing the caves, beceause when the shtf TPTB want to keep you out in the fields for slaughter.

  23. Logan says:

    White Nose Syndrome is a VERY serious problem. I understand that recreational cavers are upset about cave closings. However, the disease (a fungus) was actually thought to have been brought over from Europe. It actually showed up in one of the most visited national caves. So cavers from Europe have brought this fungus over by not being careful and not thinking about consequences. The disease has slowed somewhat with the closing of caves, and I personally believe that if you let cavers back in, it is only a matter of time before the spread beings to accelerate once again. People are lazy and they will decide to not sterilize their equipment properly (which is up to debate if it can even completely be killed off clothing and equipment). This will only lead to more and more problems. Yes it is sad they can’t go into many caves, but the fact that several species could be heading toward extinction or extirpation and that is more important than people losing a hobby.

    Also, with some of you mentioning Global Warming…the disease is cryophillic (meaning it spreads faster/causes more damage at cold temperatures) so if the temperature of the earth is actually rising then this disease isn’t going to be a problem for long. The disease (as per researchers I personally have talked to) does not cause mortality during the summer months. The only time it is a problem is in the colder months (bats in hibernation have lower immune system, no food, and wakes them up which leads to them not being able to replenish their fat stores). So if we start having milder winters (more insects, easier conditions) and overall warmer temperatures, the bats are at a lower to almost no risk.

    Just data and thoughts of someone who has studied this issue.

    1. katherine says:

      Thank you for the information. At last some facts, not jokes.

  24. walter12 says:

    It is very sad. Maybe this is how the human race will end soon.

  25. Greekgod says:

    No one ever had a mammal bat for a pet.

  26. Htos1 says:

    How is “ANOTHER” restriction on our freedoms gonna save winged rats?G** ***n this government,JUST STOP!!!!!!Species go extinct,all the time,it “EVOLUTION”,right?

  27. Logan says:

    also @ glenp – one of the reasons this disease is scary is because most diseases and virus don’t wipe out a host, yet this one has had 99% kill rates. After a time, viruses and bacteria normally evolve to sustain their hosts because it creates more opportunity for them to survive and ensures them not wiping themselves out. With the 99% kill rate and the especially low reproduction of bats, it would only take a few extra cool years to comletely do the bats in. Yes you are right that they could have been over populated. Competition also states that when populations die back the survivors are more resistant to the disease and have more of a food supply. The data however is showing that this model may break that normal mode of competition and overpopulation.

    There is hope because the bats in Europe seem to be affected by the disease but only a small percentage. It is the hope that (since it is believed that the bats in Europe evolved with the disease) there will be some sort of clue in their blood, skin, or genetics. Hopefully that piece can be translated over to the US caves and introduced into our bat populations (being that all our other treatments have failed)

  28. BGuy says:

    Note to cavers — Too F….in bad.

  29. Ben says:

    Just an excuse to keep us out of caves. They don’t want us to find their secret underground city!

  30. Ken says:

    File under “Chem-trails”

  31. Fungacidal says:


    Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this crisis. At least you shed some reasonable light on this most serious problem. I just hope that a solution, either done by the bats themselves as you said is possible by becoming more resistant to the white nose fungus; or by closing off the caves, especially in non-affected states for a temporary period to help prevent the spread of this fungus.
    I really appreciate your input!

    1. Logan says:

      Thank you! I am actually about to graduate with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management (Forestry minor) so I can’t help but jump in on these issues, I love talking about them

      1. katherine says:

        Keep it up! I very much appreciate what you have said, and the easy-to-understand manner that it was presented. I love bats. I’ve had the priviledge of rescuing a few from being killed when they ventured into someone’s home. The poor little guys get a lot of bad press, and as some have already stated, they are very important environmentally.

  32. Buck O'Fama says:

    I was so hoping it was Occupy moonbats but alas it was just your run of the mill bats. Occupy Moonbats are far more stupid which is an insuating factor not to mention their ability to live in their own guano for extended periods of time.

  33. Just Say'n says:

    Perhaps they died of rabbies.

  34. jakeblues56 says:

    Aye, I lost some friends to white nose syndrome back in the 80’s….

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