New findings of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that fatally affects cave-dwelling bat populations, have been reported in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee and Missouri, despite efforts to keep the fungus from spreading long distances through human transportation. Since it was discovered in 2006, the fungus has killed over one million bats in the Northeast.¹
With a family upward of 1,100 species, bats play a substantial role in the ecosystem worldwide by controlling insects that can pass diseases on to humans and harm crops. Certain species also help the plant populations by spreading seeds and pollinating flowers.² Officials and scientists are alarmed because of the level of decimation caused by the fungus in infected bat populations.
The fatal fungus harming bats is not yet fully understood. Wildlife officials are asking that people stay out of caves and anywhere bats hibernate for the protection of the bats until more information can be gathered. Check this article about spelunkers in the Northeast and the toll the fungus is taking on the cave-crawling past time.
Wondering how you can help? The Fish and Wildlife Service has a page with suggestions. Also report any dead bat sightings to the authorities and keep updated on cave closings in your area.