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Science and the Environment

White-Nose Syndrome Confirmed in Bats in Missouri

Bats are extremely beneficial animals.  The world’s only flying mammals eat billions of bugs each night in the United States, and Missouri is home to at least 12 species.  But a deadly disease that’s slowly been making its way westward from the northern U.S. has been killing millions of bats, and now it’s been confirmed in Missouri.  Joe Jerek is spokesman for the Missouri Department of Conservation…

"The Missouri Department of Conservation recently got confirmation that a deadly disease in bats that's called white-nose syndrome was found and confirmed in three bats from two caves in Lincoln County.  The name describes a white fungus that's typically found on the faces and wings of the infected bats, and white-nose syndrome is spread really mainly through bat to bat contact.  There's not indication of it being able to infect humans or any other animals."

White-Nose Syndrome was confirmed in a little brown bat from a public cave and in two tri-colored bats from another public cave north of St. Louis by the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.  The specific names and locations of the caves are not being disclosed to prevent human disturbance of remaining bats in the caves.

The first indication of the fungus in the state came in the spring of 2010 when the presence of the fungus but not the disease was detected in a bat in a private cave in Pike County and on five federally endangered gray bats and a northern long-eared bat netted outside a public cave in Shannon County.

The Conservation Department has been working with other state and federal agencies since then to prepare for the arrival of the disease in Missouri.  Most public caves that house bat colonies have been closed to public access.  But 74% of the more than 6300 caves in the state are privately-owned.  Visitors to those caves are asked to check with landowners before entering and to use U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decontamination protocol before and after visits to reduce the risk of accidental spread of the fungus.