Impacts of white-nose syndrome observed during long-term monitoring of a midwestern bat community

Joseph L. Pettit, Joy M. O’Keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging fungal disease suspected to have infected Indiana caves in the winter of 2010-2011. This disease places energetic strains on cave-hibernating bats by forcing them to wake and use energy reserves. It has caused. >5.5 million bat deaths across eastern North America, and may be the driving force for extinction of certain bat species. White-nose syndrome infection can be identified in hibernacula, but it may be difficult to determine whether bats in a particular area are affected if no known hibernacula exist. Thus, our aim was to use long-term monitoring data to examine changes in a summer population away from hibernacula that may be attributable to WNS effects during winter. We used capture data from a long-term bat-monitoring project in central Indiana with data from 10 repeatedly netted sites consistent across all reproductive periods. We modeled capture data by WNS exposure probability to assess changes in relative abundance of common species and reproductive classes as WNS exposure probability increases. We base exposure probability on a cokriging spatial model that interpolated WNS infection from hibernaculum survey data. The little brown bat Myotis lucifugus, the Indiana bat M. sodalis, and the tricolored bat Perimyotis subflavus suffered 12.5-79.6% declines; whereas, the big brown bat Eptesicus fuscus, the eastern red bat Lasiurus borealis, and the evening bat Nycticeius humeralis showed 11.5-50.5% increases. We caught more nonreproductive adult females and postlactating females when WNS exposure probabilities were high, suggesting that WNS is influencing reproductive success of affected species. We conclude that, in Indiana, WNS is causing speciesspecific declines and may have caused the local extinction of M. lucifugus. Furthermore, WNS-affected species appear to be losing pups or forgoing pregnancy. Ongoing long-term monitoring studies, especially those focusing on reproductive success, are needed to measure the ultimate impacts of WNS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-78
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bats
  • Capture rates
  • Disease
  • Endangered species
  • Eptesicus fuscus
  • Mist-netting surveys
  • Species declines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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