Deadly fungus could annihilate even the most common bats

Nine bat species across the South are at risk from a deadly fungus decimating certain bat populations known as white-nose syndrome.

The disease has now been confirmed as close as Tennessee and Virginia. Susan Loeb, a leading bat expert with the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, says it is just a matter of time before white-nose syndrome is detected in North Carolina where nine bat species are presumed at risk.

“Little-brown bats and Indiana bats are among the most threatened by white-nose syndrome — meaning their populations could either be seriously decimated or become extinct,” said Loeb. “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.”

White nose syndrome affects bats that hibernate in caves and mines. The disease received its name because of the white fungus often seen on the noses, muzzles and wings of infected bats. More than a million bats have died as the result of white-nose syndrome.

So far, white nose syndrome is confirmed in 11 states from Massachusetts to Virginia. The first case of the disease in the United States was reported in New York in 2006. Some experts believe the disease originated in Europe.

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