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White-Nose Syndrome Attributed to Death in Bats

Little brown bats found dead in western North Dakota died of white-nose syndrome.

In early May, the Southwest District Health Unit in Dickinson contacted the North Dakota Game and Fish Department with reports of dead bats found in Medora. Six were submitted to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc. for analysis.

The bats all tested positive for the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, and have been confirmed with WNS, a deadly disease of hibernating bats that has caused dramatic population declines in eastern states. It is named for the powdery, white fungus that often appears around the muzzle. WNS is not known to affect humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

Game and Fish Department conservation biologist Patrick Isakson said the Department is working with several federal agencies to screen for Pd and WNS in North Dakota.

“This is the second time that Pd has been detected in the state, but these are the first documented deaths in bats attributed to WNS,” Isakson said, while noting it was roughly a year ago that Pd was found on a live bat within the boundary of the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.

WNS has been confirmed in bats from 35 states and seven Canadian provinces to date.

"The discovery of white-nose syndrome in these bats signals the continued expansion of this invasive pathogen through North America,” said Jeremy Coleman, National White-nose Syndrome Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which leads the national response to WNS. "It also highlights the need for continued vigilance to track the spread of the disease and the impact it is having on native bat populations so we may better focus our conservation efforts."

State and federal agencies are asking for help to monitor the spread of this disease. Anyone seeing a dead or sick bat is asked not to handle it, but to notify health officials or state biologists who can provide further guidance.

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