Bats threatened by fungus

01/31/08 7:04AM By Ross Sneyd

(Host) Wildlife experts are worried about a fungus that has been found on hibernating bats - one that may be linked to a disease that's killing them.

Vermont state wildlife biologist Scott Darling says the disease has come to be known as ``white-nose syndrome'' because of the fungus that grows around the mouth and nose of affected bats.

(Darling) "I'm quite worried, actually. It's one of those things where you are trying very hard to get your arms around what it is, in fact, affecting these bats.''

(Host) Diseased bats were first found in New York state last year. As many as 11,000 died.

Now, bats with similar symptoms have been found hibernating in caves in Vermont. Those are the only states where the mysterious disease has been found.

Darling says it's unclear whether the white fungus that's found on the bats is harming their immune systems - or whether it's just a sign of an underlying disease.

Darling says teams of biologists are trying to figure out what's going on.

(Darling) "I'm hopeful that within the month or so we'll begin to get a better picture of what it is we're dealing with and we'll be able to develop some strategies to try to contain it.''

(Host) State officials are asking people to stay out of caves where bats are hibernating until they can determine whether the fungus can be spread by humans.

Photo/ Courtesy, Al Hicks, N.Y. D.E.C.

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