LA JUNTA, Colo. (KDVR) — For the first time in Colorado, a bat has been infected with a deadly disease known as white-nose syndrome.
On March 29, the National Park Service staff at Bent’s Old Fort Historic Site outside of La Junta found an adult female Yuma bat on the ground and unable to fly. The bat had a white powdery substance on its forearms and had to be euthanized.
Lab tests from the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center confirmed the bat tested positive for Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.
“We are working with our partners to monitor these and other bat colonies. Scientists around the world are searching for vaccines and treatments and many actions have already been taken to help conserve bats, minimize the spread and impact of white-nose syndrome and to minimize other sources of mortality for vulnerable bat species. We will implement the most effective measures to ensure our bats’ continued survival throughout our state,” said Tina Jackson, CPW species conservation coordinator.
What is white-nose syndrome?
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, white-nose syndrome was first documented in New York in 2006. In the past 17 years, the disease has been found in 12 North American bat species in 39 states.
The disease impacts hibernating bats and often results in death before or shortly after the bat wakes from hibernation in the spring, according to CPW.
How does the disease spread?
While the white-nose syndrome can have a catastrophic effect on bats, CPW said the fungus does not infect humans or pets.
However, humans can help spread the fungus if it is transported on gear or clothing that has been in contact with contaminated environments.
Bats are the primary way the fungus spread, said CPW.
Impact of white-nose syndrome on Colorado bats
CPW said the disease could devastate Colorado’s population.
Colorado has 19 bat species that are native to the state, and CPW said at least 13 of those species would be susceptible to the disease.
“Any large-scale loss of bats would spell trouble for the health of Colorado’s ecosystems and economy, given estimates that these voracious insect eaters contribute $3 billion annually to the U.S. agricultural economy through pest control,” said CPW in a press release.
State and federal agencies are asking outdoor enthusiasts to stay out of caves and mines, not to touch bats and report any sick or dead bats to CPW.