Bat White Nose Syndrome Spreading Fast Across The US

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Bat White Nose Syndrome Spreading Fast Across The US

By Andrew Larson, submitted to Rense.com by Patricia Doyle
April 2010

A recent survey shows that, out of 3,000 bats living in a Litchfield County cave three years ago, only seven are still alive, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday.

The population of bats in the Northeast is dwindling because of an aggressive fungal disease, wildlife officials say, prompting fears that the animals are headed for extinction.

A recent survey shows that, out of 3,000 bats living in a Litchfield County cave three years ago, only seven are still alive, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday.

A mysterious, fast-spreading disease called white-nose syndrome is to blame for their demise.

"What we know is that the fungus is at the center of what is happening to these bats," said Jenny Dickson, supervising biologist for the state DEP. "This is the key to the decline of the bat population, which is something we did not know a year ago."

Bats are essential to the ecosystem because they eat insects such as mosquitoes, beetles and moths, acting as a natural pesticide, Dickson said. Bats are capable of eating about one-third of their body weight in insects each night. The diminished bat population may lead to increased use of chemical pesticides, she added.

White-nose syndrome, which causes fungus to grow on the faces and wings of nearly all species of bats, was first seen in 2006. What began as an isolated problem in a New York cave has spread rapidly to Canada and as far south as Tennessee, near the North Carolina border.

It's unclear whether the fungus, or its effects, is causing the cave-dwelling animals to die. Either way, once the disease is contracted, it's just about impossible for bats to survive.

"Usually once we see that happen, the prognosis for those individuals is not good," Dickson said.