Local News

Fungal disease threatens NC bats

Posted February 9, 2011 3:41 p.m. EST
Updated February 9, 2011 3:59 p.m. EST

— Scientists with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission said Wednesday that a disease spreading among bats has been discovered in western North Carolina, threatening the state’s bat population.

White-nose syndrome, which is likely caused by a newly discovered fungus called Geomyces destructans, has already killed hundreds of thousands of bats in the eastern United States, including Virginia and Tennessee, since its discovery in 2006.

Symptoms of the disease include white patches of fungus on the animals’ skin, including their noses.

North Carolina biologists were anticipating the disease would spread to the state. It was discovered last month in a cave at Grandfather Mountain.

Another discovery was made Feb. 1 in a retired mine in Avery County.

“This discovery marks the arrival of one of the most devastating threats to bat conservation in our time,” Gabrielle Graeter, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, said Wednesday.

Bats are an important part of North Carolina’s ecosystem, because they help control the insect population. Many are able to eat hundreds of insects in one night.

North Carolina is home to several species of bats, including three on the list of federally endangered species.

Scientists say many species of bats, including one of which is endangered, appear to have been affected.