Fungus that is killing bats in large numbers has scientists worried

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Scientists batty with worry over killer fungus

-- Bats? Drats!

A fungus is continuing to attack little brown bats in such numbers that scientists are worried the animals could disappear in the wild in as little as 20 years.

The fungus is called white-nose syndrome for a white fuzz it produces on the nose, ears and wings of infected bats. It attacks while they hibernate in caves and in abandoned mines during the winter. During the summer bat count in New Jersey, conservationists counted 50 percent fewer bats than in 2009 and 80 percent fewer than in 2008. Similar losses have been seen in other states.

Because bats eat huge quantities of bugs, including insects that damage crops or carry potentially fatal diseases, their deaths could put people at risk.

"The little brown bat is the most common bat in North America. Their disappearance would be similar to suddenly losing gray squirrels or robins," said Jeremy Coleman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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