Bat-killing disease reported in West for first time

Little brown bat affected by White nose syndrome - Marvin Moriarty-USFWS
Little brown bat affected by White nose syndrome – Marvin Moriarty-USFWS

The Flathead Valley along both sides of the border is a significant bat study area, so the first report of white-nose syndrome in the Western U.S. is worrying . . .

A hiker found a bat with deadly white-nose syndrome along a trail east of Seattle, marking the first time the fungus-borne disease has appeared in the western United States.

“It’s very disheartening to see this long a jump,” said Chris Servheen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which monitors the spread of white-nose syndrome. “It was documented by North Bend, Washington, and the closest evidence of white-nose before this was eastern Nebraska and northern Minnesota.”

The little brown bat was found on March 11 in an area not known for caves or hibernaculum, where large colonies of bats gather to hibernate through the winter. The fungus typically creates a powdery coating on a hibernating bat’s nose and mouth, depriving it of the energy it needs to survive the winter. It spreads from nose to nose in the densely packed confines of bat colonies.

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