Mar 26, 2024 - News

Deadly and "devastating" fungal disease spreading among Colorado bats

A little brown bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Bloomberg

Colorado wildlife officials are sounding the alarm over a deadly invasive fungus that's killing millions of bats in North America and threatening a growing number across the state.

Why it matters: The disease β€” called white-nose syndrome β€” could have a "devastating" impact on Colorado's ecosystems, scientists say, with at least 13 of the state's 19 native bat species susceptible to catching it.

  • Nationwide, bats contribute $3 billion annually to the country's agricultural economy by eating insects, which spares crops from damage and cuts pesticide costs.

The latest: Two "little brown bats" in Boulder and Longmont tested positive for white-nose syndrome this month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Monday.

  • That brings the total number that have been infected in the state to three, after the first-ever β€” an adult female Yuma bat at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado β€” was discovered last March.

Threat level: The findings indicate that additional bats have been exposed to the disease and are likely to be detected in the coming weeks, officials say.

  • The syndrome is spread by bat-to-bat contact and from the animals coming into contact with cold, damp places where the fungus grows.
  • The disease gets its name by the visible white fungal growth on bats' muzzles and wings.

The big picture: It has been documented in 40 states and eight Canadian provinces since first being detected in New York in 2006.

Wildlife officials recommend:

  • Avoiding closed caves and mines, and not touching bats
  • 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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