Apr 24, 2023 - News

First Colorado bat hit by deadly fungal disease

Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A deadly fungal disease called white-nose syndrome has infected a bat in Colorado for the first time, state wildlife officials announced Monday.

Why it matters: It could be devastating for our local bat populations. The disease has decimated over 90% of three North American bat species in under 10 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

  • Nationwide, bats save more than $3 billion annually in crop damage and pesticide costs by eating insects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates.

Details: On March 29, an adult female Yuma bat at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado, was found on the ground and unable to fly.

  • Wildlife officials noticed the bat had a white powdery substance on its forearms and chose to euthanize it for testing.
  • Lab tests confirmed wing lesions characteristic of white-nose syndrome. The bat also tested positive for the fungus that causes the fatal condition.

By the numbers: At least 13 of Colorado's 19 native bat species are susceptible to the disease, according to the state's parks and wildlife department.

Of note: Last summer, federal wildlife researchers found the presence of the fungus at the same location, as well as in Baca, Larimer and Routt counties — but no bats captured in those areas showed signs of the disease.

What they're saying: After last year's discovery, "we expected this news was inevitable in a year or two, given the experience in other states as white-nose syndrome has spread westward," Tina Jackson, Colorado Parks and Wildlife's species conservation coordinator, said in a statement.

  • "We've been monitoring for the fungus for a number of years and this is the same pattern seen in other states," Jackson added.

The big picture: White-nose syndrome has been documented in 39 states and seven Canadian provinces since first being detected in New York in 2006.

What's next: Colorado Parks and Wildlife is partnering with federal agencies to continue to study bat species and assess the spread of the syndrome this year.

  • A $2.5 million federal grant was also awarded last month to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to fund research for a cure.

Threat level: The fungus doesn't affect humans or pets — but it can be spread to other bats by gear and clothing that comes in contact with places they dwell, like caves.

Wildlife officials recommend:

  • Avoiding closed caves and mines
  • Reporting dead or sick bats to CPW by calling 303-291-7771 or emailing [email protected]
  • Decontaminating footwear and all cave gear before and after touring caves and other places where they live

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