White Nose Syndrome, deadly bat disease, surfaces in Wisconsin
Written by Lauren DeWitt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
A bat with White Nose Syndrome is shown. Courtesy Wisconsin DNR
GRANT COUNTY, Wis. (KWWL) -
A disease dangerous to bats has resurfaced, this time in Wisconsin.
The disease is called White Nose Syndrome. It causes bats to wake up more frequently during hibernation, which could cause starvation.
Bats infected with the disease often have a white ring that typically forms around their nose. The disease is most commonly spread from bat to bat, but can also be passed to bats from humans.
"It is a fungus, and because we are talking about a fungus, there is a potential for unintentional spread of the fungus by humans," said Dr. Jeffrey Huebschman, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville biology professor.
Huebschman said the disease is not dangerous to people or other species.
He said the disease was first discovered in 2006 in the state of New York. Huebschman said the disease has lead the bat population to decline in the northeast since then.
"If our bat populations decline precipitously -- which it has been shown that this already is occurring in the northeast, where White Nose has been present for a while -- that could have ramifications in terms of insect population and then a ripple effect from there," Huebschman said Friday.
The Maquoketa Caves closed in 2010 because of fears people would increase the spread of White Nose Syndrome. The cave re-opened to the public in 2012.
Scott Dykstra, a Maquoketa Cave Park Ranger, said a program is now in place that visitors to the caves must complete before entering the caves. He said the program helps educate people about bats, White Nose Syndrome, and how to prevent the disease from spreading.
"Where you go and hike the trial, we have a mat where people can clean the mud from their boots, but during our educational process we tell people how to properly disinfect their clothing, boots, or gear or whatever it is that they take with them," Dystra said.
The Maquoketa Caves will open for the season on Tuesday.
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