For the last few years, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been swabbing bats where they hibernate in winter to make sure the deadly white-nose syndrome hasn't spread into the state. But this year, the agency swabbed bats in the spring after they woke up, too.
Non-game biologist Nichole Bjornlie said white nose is a fungus that causes bats to wake up frequently to wash off it off.
"Eventually what ends up happening from these more frequent arousals is that bats either end up dying from starvation or else they leave their hibernacula in the middle of winter in search of food and end up dying from exposure," she said.
Bjornlie said out East, white nose syndrome has wiped out 99 percent of some bat species like the northern long eared bat, and already several animals have shown signs of the disease in the Fort Laramie area.
"Luckily, all of our swabs from that area came back negative, which is wonderful," said Bjornlie. "We do know the disease is present right over the border in South Dakota. So, to be honest, it's really just a matter of time. But every year we come back negative is one more year to learn more and come up with something that may help these bats."
Bjornlie said Game and Fish is currently working on a strategic plan to address white nose syndrome if and when it does start spreading through Wyoming's bat population.
People can help keep the disease from spreading by washing their shoes and gear after visiting an infected cave. They should also check umbrellas and other camping gear for bats to make sure they don't transport an infected bat to an uninfected region.