WNS Liaison Report
to the
NSS President and BOG
June 27, 2010


As of this writing, the winter hibernation season has ended, and so has the continual stream of reports of new WNS sites.  Still, this winter saw WNS spread to Tennessee, Maryland, and Missouri, with reports of the fungus on a bat in Oklahoma and a summer bat in Delaware, a state with no hibernacula.  Two additional bat species, the federally endangered Gray bat (Myotis griscens) and the Cave Myotis (Myotis velifer) have been affected, although the numbers are so far in the single digits.  An as-yet-to-be formally confirmed report of the Southeastern Myotis (Myotis austroriparious) may add a third. Previously affected states continued to show decreased bat populations, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia, which are essentially saturated now.
While numerous research projects are in progress, no breakthroughs on the disease have been reported.  Lack of success in treatment experiments and a failed attempt at a captive breeding colony have frustrated disease mitigation efforts. Much, however, has been occurring on the management side, with many states preparing and issuing WNS plans and closure orders, something continued by several of the U.S. Forest Service units.  A revised set of cleaning and decontamination protocols has been pending for months within the USFWS, and the expected publication in the Federal Register of the WNS National Plan for public comment has yet to materialize but is likely to appear before this report is read.





WNS has clearly been elevated to national issue status.  Unfortunately, funding for research dedicated to mitigating or stopping the disease is woefully inadequate, and the balance of what WNS funding is available is tipped heavily toward management versus science. The ramifications on caving and cave access of wildlife management decisions are likely to be felt for some time.  With WNS knocking on the door to the West, where most land is publicly (primarily federally) owned, this may become far more of an issue.  The NSS and cavers locally must work hard to maintain collaborative relationships with federal agencies and increase the private/public partnerships as per our WNS policy and long-standing conservation track record. 
The NSS and its members need to be visible locally and nationally to maintain our standing as the country’s leading expert voice on caving and cave conservation. This spring, Berkshire, Massachusetts cavers organized an event at a local museum featuring a bat biologist (Al Hicks), myself, and Kevin Downey, world class cave photographer.  Over 175 people turned out on a Saturday afternoon.  They learned about bats, White Nose Syndrome, caving and the caving community’s involvement in addressing the problem. And they saw magnificent pictures of the underground world we know and love.  The public and media came away with an understanding of our passion, our concern, and our involvement and collaboration.  That’s a message we need more of – it will serve the NSS and caves well in the long run.

Peter Youngbaer, NSS 16161
WNS Liaison
3606 East Hill Road
Plainfield, VT 05667-9547
802-272-3802 (cell)