A fungal disease that is fatal to bats has killed millions of bats in North America and is spreading in the United States. It has recently been detected in Michigan for the first time.
Wildlife officials reported the findings and the state Department of Natural Resources said Thursday that laboratory test confirmed it was the fungal disease that killed 90 percent of Michigan’s bat species. It caused white nose syndrome in Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac counties.
Other cases have surfaced in other states including; Wisconsin, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama and Missouri. The spread in unfortunate according to officials because there is no cure for the fungal disease.
“We face the loss of multiple bat species and the benefits they provide to our ecosystems and our people,” said Eric Crain of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The bats are a necessary ecological benefit because they eat insects that otherwise would damage crops and trees. The disease is causing the bats to wake frequently from their hibernation, which decreases their energy and leads them to starvation and dehydration.
Over six million bats have died from the spread of the disease and there is little that can be done to protect the winged mammals. The bats are spreading the disease among each other as they join together in caves on moist walls. The disease doesn’t effect humans or other animals. Humans, however, can contribute to the spread when they explore mines and caves, where bats enter. The fungus is said to stick to clothes or climbing gear.
Researchers believe that the disease came from Europe, where bat species there is significantly infected. New York could have easily received travelers from Europe who visit the popular cave there.
Wildlife veterinarian, Dan O’Brien shared that no one has come up with a cure to kill the fungal disease without killing the bats. It would also be challenging to create more than enough to go around and reverse the outbreak.