Different management strategies are optimal for combating disease in East Texas cave versus culvert hibernating bat populations
Management decisions for species impacted by emerging infectious diseases are challenging when there are uncertainties in the effectiveness of management actions. Wildlife managers must balance trade‐offs between mitigating the effects of the disease and the associated consequences on other aspects of the managed system. An example of this challenge is exemplified in the response to white‐nose syndrome (WNS), a disease of hibernating bats. The fungal pathogen that causes WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans , continues to spread throughout North America. Texas, recently confirmed positive for the fungus, has documented 33 bat species in the state, with nearly half of those species naïve to the pathogen. We explicitly incorporated multiple management objectives, uncertainty, and risk in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department decision to manage East Texas populations of the tri‐colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus ), a species highly susceptible to WNS. Alternatives included individual actions that act against P . destructans or benefit bats, a no active management option, and combinations of actions. Although our main objective was to identify WNS mitigation measures for tri‐colored bats in culverts, we also considered the transferability of the decision for natural caves. In this scenario, the optimal decision differed for culverts and caves, with a “portfolio” combination of actions ranking as the best alternative for culverts and a single vaccine alternative for caves. Because the top management alternatives differed markedly between these two systems, finding treatments that have broad application is likely infeasible, given that each management decision is characterized by different mixtures of competing objectives.