White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease, has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States is now moving west in a fashion reminiscent of a Horatio Alger character and is threatening both baths and whole ecosystems.
The spread west is surprising according to scientists
Officials found one infected bat about 30 miles from Seattle and testing has confirmed that the bat was suffering from white-nose syndrome.
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Katherine Haman, a veterinarian at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, said, “At this point, we don’t know where the infected bat may have spent the winter, but it seems likely that it was somewhere in the central Cascades.”
The disease was first discovered in New York about ten years ago, and spread to over two dozen states in the eastern U.S and five Canadian provinces and it’s believed that it has killed around six million bats in the last decade.
“A fungal disease that has killed millions of bats nationwide has spread to Washington state, the first time white-nose syndrome has turned up in the western United States, federal wildlife officials said Thursday. Testing verified the disease in one bat found about 30 miles east of Seattle. The disease does not affect people or other animals, but bats are valuable because they eat mosquitoes and other insects that damage trees and commercial crops,” according to a recent article in The World Link.
Bats get an unnecessary bad wrap at times, sure they often carry rabies, but humans are rarely bit and white-nose syndrome doesn’t affect other animals or humans. I’ll take bats over mosquitoes all day (night?) as they are fantastic mosquito killers and other insects that cause crop damage as well as kill trees.
Concerning move west for white-nose syndrome
To date, Minnesota is as far west as the fungal disease has traveled making the Washington discovery a bit scary as it can’t really go further west and we will likely begin hearing of cases in the states found between Minnesota and Washington.
“We’ve been bracing for such a jump,” Jeremy Coleman, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s syndrome coordinator, told reporters during a recent conference call.
The news is concerning, though not entirely surprising because the fungal disease spreads rapidly, wildlife officials say. It has killed more than 6 million hibernating bats in 28 states and five Canadian provinces since it was first documented nearly a decade ago in New York. Previously, white-nose syndrome had been detected only as far west as Minnesota. “We’ve been bracing for such a jump,” Jeremy Coleman, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s syndrome coordinator, told reporters during a conference call.
In a report published by the Seattle Times, “Scientists have detected the first known case of white-nose syndrome in a bat in Washington — a bleak revelation that could spell doom for populations of the flying mammals in this state and beyond. The deadly fungus — the first detection of the disease west of the Rockies — was discovered in a little brown bat found by hikers along an undisclosed trail near North Bend on March 11.”
“As they were hiking along they came across a bat that was alive but very weak and unable to fly,” detailed Ms. Haman adding that the hikers took the bat to a PAWS shelter where it died a few days later.
Back east, in an effort to protect the bats in the Great Smoky Mountains, areas of the park have been closed to visitors to give the bats a fighting chance.