How White Nose Syndrome Kills Bats

Checking caves for White Nose Syndrome

Checking caves for White Nose Syndrome, Photo © Mylea Bayless, Bat Conservation International,

This is Passport to Texas

White nose syndrome is a fungal disease that attacks hibernating bats.

So, the way that white nose hurts them and is fatal to them is by irritating their skin while they’re hibernating.

Jonah Evans is a mammologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. A skin irritation doesn’t sound fatal, but expending energy reserves is.

Hibernation for a bat is a very narrow budget of energy that they’re trying to make last for many months. And the process of waking up, cleaning off your wings, and fidgeting around a little bit, burns off critical energy—and the result is starvation. They’re just not able to make it through hibernation.

It seems not all bats are affected by White Nose Syndrome even if infected.

If a bat does not hibernate, it means that bat is active all winter long. Some of those stay here in the southern part of the state, but other ones migrate down to Mexico and Central America. And even if those bats get the disease, because they’re active year round, there’s hope that they’ll be constantly replenishing their calories and they won’t perish because of the disease.

Mexican free-tailed bats—the ones in the big caves in Texas—are migratory. Currently, Texas is White Nose Syndrome free. Yet, as a priority species researchers are doing what they can to understand the issue and to develop a management plan should it come to our state.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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