The West has been hit by a disease that led to massive die-offs among bat populations in the eastern US. The situation has placed the winged mammals in danger and could severely change ecosystems in the area.
In mid-March, hikers discovered a small brown bat with white nose syndrome on a trail east of Seattle. This was the first time that the fatal fungus has been spotted west of the Rockies. The hikers took the immobilized bat to an animal care home where it died a couple of days later.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife and the US Geological Survey announced the discovery on Thursday.
The discovery has been called surprising and strange by David Blehert, branch chief of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center’s Wildlife Disease Diagnostic Laboratories. While speaking to The Huffington Post, Mollie Matteson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said that they have feared this for some time.
The disease has reached Nebraska, 1,300 miles from the place in North Bend, Washington until March. Matteson has called it an extreme jump. Blehert said to their knowledge, it is the first time that there has been a long-range jump of the fungus.
The fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructan causes this disease, and it is so fatal that it can kill an entire bat colony. In the eastern US, it has taken over 6 million lives of bats. The devastation caused by it in bat populations has been called the last century’s most precipitous decline of North American wildlife.
The affected bats suffer from the growth of fungus on their noses, wings and ears due to which they start looking white and fuzzy. It is a devastating disease that spreads across the bodily tissue, affects the physiological processes, disturb necessary hibernation periods and cause bats deterioration.