Fungus Strikes Bat Species in Five States

ASHEVILLE, N.C., April 14 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve identified a deadly fungus that’s threatening nine bat species in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Officials at the USDA’s Southern Research Station in Asheville, N.C., said the fungus — called white-nose syndrome — kills bats that hibernate in caves and mines.

“In the five states where most of my research has centered, little-brown bats and Indiana bats are among the most threatened by WNS — meaning their populations could either be seriously decimated or become extinct,” USDA research ecologist Susan Loeb said. “Historically, little-brown bats were quite common, but the species appears to be especially susceptible to the fungus and is being hit hard in the states where WNS has taken hold. While populations of the federally endangered Indiana bat showed signs of rebounding in recent years, those gains may soon be negated by white-nose syndrome.”

Loeb said she is also concerned the fungus will have serious effects on populations of small-footed bats, northern long-eared bats and Eastern pipistrelles, either because of their small populations, their susceptibility to the disease or both. Other species that could be infected are the Virginia big-eared bat, Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, the gray bat and the southeastern bat.

So far, WNS is confirmed in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee. The disease is also confirmed in Canada.

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