By Jeff Gillies
Great Lakes Echo
A mysterious ailment that’s already wiped out more than a million North American bats is headed to critical Great Lakes hibernation sites.
White-nose Syndrome, named for the tufts of fungus growing on the faces and wings of afflicted bats, was first spotted in New York in February 2006. The disease has since spread through New England, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Conservationists worry it could spread as far as Mexico.
“As quick as it has spread, it’s most likely going to hit the Great Lakes region within one to two years, potentially wiping out 90 percent of bats that hibernate in the region,” said Rob Mies, director of the Michigan-based Organization for Bat Conservation.
Millions of bats hibernate in caves and abandoned mines throughout the Great Lakes states and Ontario, said Dave Waldien, co-director of programs at Bat Conservation International in Austin, Texas.
“These are very important states for a lot of our species,” he said.
Bats usually wake a few times each winter to drink, mate, and reboot their immune systems. The fungus could cause bats to wake up too often or stay awake too long, using up stored fat reserves, said Merlin Tuttle, Bat Conservation International’s president and founder.