|A bat with WNS in Great Smoky Mountains National |
Park (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Researchers observed wing lesions on a bat (believed to be of the long-legged bat species) earlier this summer near Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills National Forest, and lab tests in June at the U.S. Geological Survey's Wildlife Health Center confirmed that the bat had white-nose syndrome, the Rapid City Journal reports. The fungus that causes the disease was confirmed the week before then at Badlands National Park in South Dakota and Laramie National Historic Site in eastern Wyoming.
The long-legged bat is the eleventh species confirmed with white-nose syndrome; in June the disease was found in a cave bat in Kansas and the fungus was found on a western small-footed bat in South Dakota--all three western species.
Bats play an important role in ecosystems and contribute at least $3 billion annually to the U.S. agriculture economy by pollinating crops, dispersing seeds and keeping insect populations down. But white-nose has decimated bat populations in at least 33 states and experts say some bat species may go extinct because of it.
The press release asks the public to take the following steps to limit the spread of white-nose syndrome:
- Stay out of caves, mines, and areas that are closed.
- Decontaminate your caving and hiking gear and boots. Do not reuse gear that has been used in WNS-affected areas. Visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org for more information.
- Contact your state wildlife agency or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately if you suspect you have seen bats with WNS, or if you see bats flying outside during freezing temperatures.
- Do not touch live or dead bats.