Fungal Disease to Blame for Decline of Ohio Bat Population

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Wildlife officials say a fungal disease is responsible for decimating Ohio’s bat population in recent years, and hikers are partly to blame.

The Columbus Dispatch reports white-nose syndrome first appeared in 2011 and is now confirmed in 19 counties.

One infected bat can carry the deadly disease back to its den and infect an entire colony. The fungus produces billions of spores that live in the soil and walls of caves or other habitats.

Ohio Division of Wildlife bat biologist Jennifer Norris says white-nose syndrome is so widespread because humans transmit spores from site to site.

The U.S. Forest Service extended an order last week prohibiting anyone from entering underground mines or tunnels in Wayne National Forest in an effort to minimize risks to the state’s bat population.