Disease Killing Northeast Bats

"State environmental officials and caving organizations are asking people not to enter caves or mines with bats until further notice to avoid the possible transfer of a mysterious new bat disease from cave to cave.
Thousands of hibernating bats are dying in caves in New York and Vermont from unknown causes, prompting an investigation by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, as well as wildlife agencies and researchers around the nation.
The most obvious symptom involved in the die-off is a white fungus encircling the noses of some, but not all, of the bats.
Bat with white nose syndrome (Photo courtesy West Virginia Association for Cave Studies)
Called "white nose syndrome," the fungus is believed to be associated with the problem, but it may not contribute to the actual cause of death. It appears that the impacted bats deplete their fat reserves months before they would normally emerge from hibernation, and die as a result.
"What we've seen so far is unprecedented," said Alan Hicks, DEC's bat specialist. "Most bat researchers would agree that this is the gravest threat to bats they have ever seen."
Last year, some 8,000 to 11,000 bats died at several locations in New York, the largest die-off of bats due to disease documented in North America. This year, an unknown number of bats are at risk.
"We have bat researchers, laboratories and caving groups across the country working to understand the cause of the problem and ways to contain it," said Hicks. "Until we know more, we are asking people to stay away from known bat caves." (...)"

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