Disease Epidemic Killing US Bats
There is a disease epidemic scorching through caves killing U.S. bats. While we normally don't see much of bats, they are an important part of the environment, controlling insect populations and pollinating plants.
Bats normally hibernate in the winter, congregagating in large colonies of hundreds of thousands of bats.
The plague affecting the bats has been labelled white-nose-syndrome(WNS) and is caused by a fungus that invades the muzzle and sometimes the wings of the hibernating bats. The fungus has been identified as Geomyces destructans and is blamed for rousing the bats from their hibernation, burning their fat reserves and starving to death.
Over the past three years, bat biologists estimate that one million bats have died from WNS in the United States, with some hibernation sites losing 90–100% of their animals. Many experts are concerned because of the bats' important role in pollination.
At Aeolus, "last year we estimate that we found between 10,000 and 20,000 dead bats on the cave floor," says Darling, who works for Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Department in Rutland.
Researchers have looked at bats in Europe that have been afflicted with the same fungus, but have not died. They remain baffled by this epidemic spreading through a little observed but very important part of our ecosystem that may be facing extinction.
Information on this deadly disease was first brought to the NP readers attention last May in an article:
White Muzzle Syndrome Affecting Bats and the Environment