USFWS challenges people to advance white-nose syndrome control

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $100,000 prize to individuals who develop new ideas that might eradicate or mitigate white-nose syndrome (WNS) as part of a white-nose challenge.

The disease is caused by a lethal fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, and has killed millions of North American bats, threating a number of species’ survival.

First detected in New York in 2006, white-nose syndrome has spread across the continent. Bats with the disease have been found33 states and seven Canadian provinces. The fungus that causes it has been found in five more states, including the most recent discovery a few months ago in California.

Wildlife professionals around the United State and Canada have been working together to address the disease. “Fish and wildlife agencies and partner organizations are dedicated to finding ways to reduce the effects of WNS and improve the survival of bats,” said Kelly Hepler, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. The U.S. National Response to White-nose Syndrome, a broad, multi-agency effort led by the Service, is studying WNS and how to control it.

“The national response to white-nose syndrome has demonstrated we can be more innovative and impactful when we harness our collective expertise, knowledge and skills,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson in a press release. “The white-nose syndrome challenge is designed to tap into that collaborative energy to fight the fungus and help save America’s bats and the natural benefits they provide to people.”

Through the challenge, the Service is looking for ways to permanently eliminate, disarm or weaken P. destructans in the wild, without harming other beneficial species or the environment. Ideas that come out of the challenge will be considered in future collaborative efforts to solve the white-nose syndrome crisis.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting a webinar on Nov. 20, 2019 at 2 p.m. ET, so that those interested in joining the challenge can learn more about the challenge guidelines, judging criteria, the timeline for the challenge and more. Individuals or teams must enter by Dec. 31.

The Wildlife Society recognizes that, especially when combined with other stressors on habitats and populations, particularly fragmented populations, wildlife diseases may present serious conservation and management consequences and concerns for wildlife managers and scientists. The Society encourages investment and support in collaborative prevention, surveillance, management, monitoring and research of wildlife diseases, using multi-disciplinary approaches to better understand both anthropogenic and natural causes of disease.

Read TWS’ Standing Position on Wildlife Disease.

Header Image: A little brown bat affected by WNS is held by a researcher in New York.
©Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation