Bat Monthly / Chauves-souris Mensuelles August 2019

Featured story
Québec Bat recovery team, May 2019
White nose syndrome, an infection caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, arrived in the Québec province in 2010. Since then, it has spread in most areas of the province and caused significant declines in Myotis bat populations. In response to this decline, the province has implemented a bat recovery team in accordance with the local regulation for endangered species. This team is composed of regional, provincial and federal biologists, as well as professionals associated with local conservation organizations and consulting firms. In May 2019 the team published the Recovery Plan for Québec’s Non-migratory Bat Species aimed towards three species of bats including the Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), and Tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus). All three species are non-migratory and hibernate in Québec, but while the Little brown bat and the Northern long-eared bat are wide spread, the Tri-colored bat is uncommon and southerly distributed in the province. In Quebec, population densities and dynamics are not precisely known. The production and implementation of a recovery plan is thus essential in order to counter threats to these species. White-nose syndrome is the major threat to these bats but others threats including persecution, exclusion, extermination, and industrial activity, are also considered. The long-term goal for the Recovery Plan is to ensure conditions that will enable self-sufficient populations of bats that are ecologically functional and distributed throughout their range. To achieve this goal, four objectives have been set concerning educating citizens, following the evolution of populations, developing and applying protection or mitigation measures, and knowledge acquisition. In order to reach these objectives, a recovery strategy containing thirteen measures and thirty-five actions is proposed.
Summary submitted by Anouk Simard and Marie-Christine Landry, Québec Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs.

Featured contributor
Jordi Segers – National bat white-nose syndrome scientific program coordinator, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
For this first Bat Monthly I will kick-off our ‘Featured contributor’ section myself as an introduction for those who do not know where their bat white-nose syndrome updates have been coming from. As my job title suggests, I am tasked with coordinating our national white-nose syndrome response program and do so by setting up meetings with our WNS inter-agency committee and working groups, ensuring knowledge mobilization, helping to identify or develop resources to assist our partners’ responses to the threat of WNS and other bat health issues, and more. I have held this position with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative for over four years now and am based at our Atlantic Centre in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Before starting this position I did my undergraduate degree in Wildlife Management in the Netherlands, followed by my graduate degree at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during which I did my thesis on short-distance movement patterns of little brown myotis and northern myotis in summer and fall. I am excited to use this new Bat Monthly to introduce our partners one-by-one and continue the great inter-agency collaborations that have kept our WNS response strong over the past years.

White-nose syndrome surveillance
White-nose syndrome spreads to Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
Trent Bollinger from CWHC Western/Northern reports:
One big brown bat and four little brown myotis were found at Riding Mountain National Park’s East Gate, Manitoba, in March 2019. The Big brown bat and three little brown myotis were confirmed positive for WNS based on histology and qPCR. The fourth little brown myotis was classified as suspect (B) for WNS. Two additional little brown myotis were found in Wasagaming town site in the national park in May and confirmed positive for WNS as well through histology and qPCR. Riding Mountain National Park falls within Division No. 17 in Manitoba and these positive cases represent the furthest known western spread of WNS in Canada. These and other WNS maps can be found on our surveillance page.

In the news
Bat rabies
CWHC recently wrote a blog post about bat rabies, separating facts from fiction, and what you should do to stay safe.
Bats in buildings
CWHC Atlantic developed guidance on how to manage bats in buildings specifically for Newfoundland and Labrador as well as for Prince Edward Island (French version). See our resources page for additional guidance on this topic.

Kramer et al.
The introduced fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans is causing decline of  several species of bats in North America, with some even at risk of extinction or extirpation. The severity of the epidemic of white‐nose syndrome caused by P. destructans has prompted investigation of the transmission and virulence of infection at multiple scales, but linking these scales is necessary to quantify the mechanisms of transmission and assess population‐scale declines. We built a model connecting within‐hibernaculum disease dynamics of little brown bats to regional‐scale dispersal, reproduction, and disease spread, including multiple plausible mechanisms of transmission. We parameterized the model using the approach of plausible parameter sets, by comparing stochastic simulation results to statistical probes from empirical data on  within‐hibernaculum prevalence and survival, as well as among‐hibernacula spread across a region. Our results are consistent with frequency‐dependent transmission between bats, support an important role of environmental transmission, and show very little effect of dispersal among colonies on metapopulation survival. The results help identify the influential parameters and largest sources of uncertainty. The model also offers a generalizable method to assess hypotheses about hibernaculum‐to‐hibernaculum transmission and to identify gaps in knowledge about key processes, and could be expanded to include additional mechanisms or bat species.
Ecology and Evolution, 00:1-13 (2019).
Abbott et al.
An outbreak of rabies occurred in a captive colony of wild-caught big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Five of 27 bats exhibited signs of rabies virus infection 22–51 d after capture or 18–22 d after contact with the index case. Rabid bats showed weight loss, aggression, increased vocalization, hypersalivation, and refusal of food. Antigenic typing and virus sequencing confirmed that all five bats were infected with an identical rabies virus variant that circulates in E. fuscus in the United States. Two bats with no signs of rabies virus infection were seropositive for rabies virus-neutralizing antibodies; the brains of these bats had no detectable viral proteins by the direct fluorescence antibody test. We suspect bat-to-bat transmission of rabies virus occurred among our bats because all rabies-infected bats were confined to the cage housing the index case and were infected with viruses having identical sequences of the entire rabies nucleoprotein gene. This outbreak illustrated the risk of rabies virus infection in captive bats and highlights the need for researchers using bats to assume that all wild bats could be infected with rabies virus.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases, In-Press.
Huebschman et al.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) affects bats primarily in winter, with Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes WNS, growing on bats in colder climates as they are hibernating. As a result, nearly all disease investigations have been conducted on bats in the winter or as they are emerging in spring. Although P. destructans has been detected on bats during the summer season, the seasonal dynamics of infection during this period remain poorly understood. To test for the presence of P. destructans during the summer season, we sampled bats that were free flying from June 2017 to September 2017 and also sampled bats from a maternity roost in August and outside a known hibernaculum in September. We collected skin swabs from the muzzle and forearm of bats, and using real-time PCR methods, we detected P. destructans DNA on 16% (12/76) of bats sampled in Wisconsin, US, including juvenile little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) from bat house maternity roosts, and free-flying adult bats of two species captured in June, the little brown bat and the migratory eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis). These data illustrated the potential for P. destructans to be transferred and dispersed among bats during the summer and highlighted the complex seasonal dynamics associated with this pathogen.
Journal. of Wildlife Diseases, 55(3):673-677 (2019).

Holz et al. Context: Pseudogymnoascus destructans is the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome (WNS), which has killed millions of hibernating bats in North America, but also occurs in bats in Europe and China without causing large scale population effects. This is likely due to differences in species susceptibility and behaviour, and environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity. P. destructans is currently believed to be absent from Australia. Aims: To ascertain the level of risk that white-nose syndrome poses for Australian bats. Methods: This risk analysis examines the likelihood that P. destructans enters Australia and comes in contact with native bats, and the potential consequences should this occur. This risk analysis examines the likelihood that P. destructans enters Australia, the likelihood of the fungus coming in contact with native bats upon successful entry, and the potential consequences should this occur. Key results: This risk assessment concluded that it is very likely/almost certain that P. destructans will enter Australia, and likely that bats will be exposed to the fungus over the next ten years. Eight cave-dwelling bat species from southern Australia are the ones most likely to be affected. Conclusions: The risk was assessed as medium for the critically endangered southern bent-winged bat (Miniopterus orianae bassanii), as any increase in mortality could impact its long term survival. The risk to other species was deemed to range from low to very low, due to their wider distribution, which extends beyond the P. destructans risk zone. Implications: While Australia’s milder climate may preclude the large mortality events seen in North America, the fungus could still significantly impact Australian bat populations, particularly bent-winged bats. Active surveillance is required to confirm Australia’s continuing WNS-free status, and to detect the presence of P. destructans should it enter the country. Although White-nose Syndrome Response Guidelines have been developed by Wildlife Health Australia to assist response agencies in the event of an incursion of WNS into bats in Australia, these guidelines would be strengthened by further research to characterize Australian cave temperatures and hibernating bat biology, such as length of torpor bouts and movement over winter. Risk mitigation strategies should focus on education programs that target cavers, show-cave managers and tourists, particularly those who have visited regions where WNS is known to occur. Wildlife Research (in press)

Upcoming meetings
Kalamazoo, MI, October 23-26, 2019

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