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First Case Of Fungus That Causes White-Nose Syndrome Found On Wyoming Bat

Bat house shelter on grounds of Fort Laramie National Historic Site, WY, where colony of little brown bats included a bat with the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, May 2018
Ian Abernethy
Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

Wildlife researchers have confirmed a bat in Fort Laramie has fungus that causes white-nose syndrome. The fungal disease has killed millions of bats in parts of the U.S. and Canada since 2006.

White-nose syndrome got its name from the white-colored fungus that grows on a bat’s snout and wings causing pain, damage, and scarring. It's deadly because it wakes up a bat from hibernation leaving it vulnerable to starvation and exposure.

One fear is that the disease could spread more widely to bat populations around the state. Nicole Bjornlie, a non-game mammal biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), said prevention of the disease is critical given there’s not yet a landscape-level treatment.

Bjornlie said the average person can help mitigate the spread of fungal spores by “making sure that if you go into caves and mines you decontaminate your gear. And, also, something as simple as, if you’re vacationing, checking your umbrella, checking the canopy on your camper before you leave just to make sure there are no bats hiding in there.”

Soon, she added, an investigation will step up to learn from where the disease stemmed. There will also be further testing of other bats found in Fort Laramie for the disease.

“There will be some more intensive work probably next spring, and a little bit this winter as well, trying to get an idea from that epicenter, how far that spread may be,” Bjornlie said.

There will be a coordinated effort to limit access to sites where bats hibernate and increased sampling for the fungus. Tim Woolley, the WGFD statewide wildlife and habitat management supervisor, said in a press release that bats provide $3 billion annually to the agricultural economy in the country through pest control and pollination.

The fungal disease is not transmissible to humans.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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