Surveillance for the Presence of White-Nose Syndrome in the Bat Community at El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

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a picture of a bat infected with white nose syndrome
A bat infected with white nose syndrome

In 1999 and 2000, FORT conducted a survey of bats at El Malpais National Monument (ELMA) and adjacent lands. During this study, several species of bats were documented, including some that are known to use caves or lava-tube formations as roosts. In the winter of 2006–2007, the fungus-caused condition known as “white-nose syndrome” (WNS) began devastating populations of bat species that use caves and mines in the eastern United States. This disease is moving westward and has the potential to affect local populations of bats at ELMA. To better plan and manage for the possible arrival of WNS, it is imperative to have current information on the occurrence of bat species and the types of habitat they use in the national monument. These data will serve as a current baseline on the status of the existing species and can be compared to historic and future studies alike.

The purpose of this study is to locate new hibernacula, as well as provide an up-to-date assessment of bats and their micro-biota that occur on El Malpais National Monument. This study will provide new insight to what species may be affected by the potential occurrence of white-nose syndrome. Moreover, information from this study will provide information that is critical for managing habitat of the park as well as insight to what species may be using the lava tube systems.

This study will be initiated with a review of the literature, as well as the database of species encountered during the 1999-2000 bat assessment conducted US Geological Survey. Field studies that include acoustic monitoring and mist-netting bats over open water sources will target early emergence of bats during late winter and early spring to allow for detection of hibernacula across the landscape and fungal hyphae, respectively. Mist netting will continue throughout the spring and likely the summer of 2013. All efforts are dependent on local weather conditions and available funding.