A recent survey of Texas caves turned up good news for the state’s bat population: According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, evidence of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease currently devastating populations of bats across eastern North America, hasn’t appeared in this state.
Texas is home to dozens of bat colonies, many of which draw tourists throughout the summer. Some of the state’s most popular bat-watching destinations include Bracken Cave near San Antonio, the Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin, and the Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve southwest of Mason. Here’s a link to more bat-watching sites in the state.
The survey, which was conducted by Bat Conservation International with a grant from the Parks and Wildlife Department, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of California, Santa Cruz, sampled both cave walls and individual bats to search for signs of the fungus. The study examined caves in Childress, Cottle, and Hardeman counties in the Texas Panhandle, the region thought to be the most susceptible to the disease.
Although no signs of white-nose syndrome were found in Texas, the disease has already been identified in 25 states and five Canadian provinces. White-nose syndrome was first identified in New York in 2007. The closest outbreak of white-nose syndrome to Texas is currently in north-central Arkansas. The disease is extremely deadly to bats, leading to fatality rates between 90 and 100 percent in some caves.
TPWD says it will continue to monitor Texas caves and work with partner agencies and other conservation organizations to track the spread of the disease.