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Fungus linked to fatal bat disease found in southeast Colorado

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CPW
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LA JUNTA, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has reported the discovery of a fungus in southeast Colorado that causes a fatal disease in bats.

According to CPW, Laboratory tests conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) was found on a bat captured at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in Otero County.

Pd is an invasive fungus that causes white-nose syndrome (WNS) in hibernating bats. It can spread rapidly, primarily through bat-to-bat contact. No bats have tested positive for WNS in Colorado yet, but the presence of Pd usually precedes confirmation of disease by one or two years, CPW said.

“We have been monitoring the westward spread of this fungus for a number of years and this recent finding will have significant implications for the native bats of Colorado and the western U.S.,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Species Conservation Coordinator Tina Jackson.

According to CPW, white-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in North America. It was first documented in New York state in 2006. Colorado now joins four other states and one Canadian province in which evidence of the fungus, but not WNS, has been found. CPW, the USGS, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service have been conducting WNS surveys for more than a decade. They will continue to monitor for the disease, with increased surveillance in the area this bat was found.

“Continued spread of the fungus increasingly puts western bat species at risk,” said Jeremy Coleman, national coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s White-nose Syndrome Program. “We are supporting research and watching closely to understand the impact the disease may have on these important bat populations.” 

State and federal agencies in Colorado and throughout the U.S. ask that outdoors enthusiasts help by following these recommendations:

  • Stay out of closed caves and mines.
  • Decontaminate footwear and all caving gear before and after visiting or touring caves and other places where bats live.
  • Do not touch bats. Report dead or sick bats to CPW by calling 303-291-7771 or emailing wildlife.batline@state.co.us.
  • Gear and clothing used in areas where Pd or WNS occurs should not be used in areas where Pd is not known to occur.
  • To avoid accidentally transporting bats, check canopies, umbrellas, and other outdoor items for any bats that may have roosted in a nook or cranny.

Visit CPW’s website for more information on WNS

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