It wasn't too long ago that a few bats were discovered in a New York cave, dead from a mysterious condition known as white-nose syndrome. Now scientists are alarmed over what appears to be a spread of the deadly disease to at least 6 other states in the northeastern U.S.
The disease causes bats to use up their fat stores, resulting in hibernation ending early, often during a time of year when insects and food sources are almost unavailable. The cause is a type of fungus that spreads along the skin of bats, creating a white nosed appearance.
White-nose syndrome is not a threat to humans, but a decrease in the number of bats could be dangerous for the balance of ecological systems. Insect numbers could increase as bats die off, contributing to crop disease and other ecological issues.
In the 2 years since the disease was first discovered near Albany, it has possibly spread as far as West Virginia and killed up to hundreds of thousands of bats in 6 states, including bats that are currently considered endangered species.
Researchers are investigating by tracking brown bats with radio transmitters, as well as trying to come up with methods of combating the disease before it spreads even further. What little time they have left will tell how successful they are.
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