White-nose syndrome (WNS), named for the fuzzy white fungus that appears on the noses, wings, ears, and feet of infected bats, is a deadly disease affecting cave hibernating bats.
WNS is caused by an invasive, non-native fungus (Geomyces destructans). The fungus exists in caves and abandoned mines where bats spend the winter hibernating. The fungus grows on bats while they hibernate, eventually causing death.
Infected bats wake from hibernation and leave the cave in search of food and water, but are unable to survive the cold winter temperatures.
Signs of WNS are bats flying during the day in cold winter temperatures, dead bats found in winter, or bats found in winter with white fungus on their bodies.
WNS was first discovered in New York during the winter of 2006, and has since spread rapidly across the northeastern United States and into the Midwestern states, north into Canada, and south into Alabama.
WNS is spread two ways; from one bat to another and from the human transportation of fungal spores. Spores of the fungus can attach to clothing, shoes, and other caving equipment and be transported to an uninfected cave. Therefore many caves on public lands are closed to the public to prevent further spread of WNS.