Northeastern United States: Lethal Disease Decimates Bat Populations


An emerging fungal disease, termed White-Nose Syndrome due to the white fungus typically found on the faces of afflicted bats, is spreading throughout the Northeastern section of the United States. Sick and dead bats have been found in unprecedented numbers in caves from Vermont to Virginia. In some areas 90-100% of the bats observed were dying. Many species of bats are at risk in states including: New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. To date it is estimated that 75% of the bat population in these states have been killed. The loss of bats could have very serious ecological consequences, as bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects (including damaging crop and forest pests).

First reported during the 2006-2007 winter season in the central part of New York state, the unidentified fungus causes the mammals to wake from hibernation weeks early, before insects are available for them to eat. The bats are then unable to make it through the rest of winter and often end up severely emaciated or dead.

Bat researchers do not know what is causing the disease to spread, and are working in numerous locations to find the source of the fungus.

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