National Forest Biologists Wary Of Deadly Bat Fungus

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Biologists with the Wayne National Forest want to slow the spread of a deadly disease affecting the nation's bat population.

White-nose syndrome among bats was first found in Albany, New York in 2006 and now the rare fungus has extended into Ohio. 
Wildlife biologist with Wayne National Forest, Katrina Schultes says the first sighting in Ohio was seen in an abandoned mine in Lawrence County in March 2011. 
"It's caused by a cold loving fungus that attacks the bats while they hibernate; mainly in mines and caves and has spread very quickly across the eastern United States and Canada. The latest estimates are upward of five million bats already dead," said Schultes.
White-nose syndrome hasn't been confirmed in Hocking County.
Schultes says biologists with the Wayne are trying to slow the spread while minimizing the disturbance to bats while they are in hibernation. 
She says the syndrome would have also have an effect on agriculture. 
"It's pretty simple. Bats eat bugs. They are the primary consumer of night flying insects and also agricultural forest pests, so it's sort of a rolling problem," said Schultes. "We spend more money on pest control and pesticides when we don't have bats contributing to the ecological control sort of naturally."
Specialists say that anyone observing more than six dead bats or large numbers of bats flying outside in the winter, especially near a cave or mine, should contact the ODNR Division of Wildlife.