Biologists find disease-causing fungus on New Mexico bats

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In this Jan. 27, 2009 file photo, a radio transmitter is inserted into a little brown bat in an abandoned mine in Rosendale, N.Y. A 2018 survey of several cave-dwelling bat species in New Hampshire found very few spent their winters in abandoned mines and other locations that were once popular for them during the winter. Biologists said the numbers are the latest indication that the bats have yet to recover from a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Federal land managers have confirmed that a disease-causing fungus has been found on hibernating bats in two eastern New Mexico caves.

The Bureau of Land Management reported this week that the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome also was found on the walls of the caves during routine surveillance conducted last month in De Baca and Lincoln counties.

A team of biologists observed a white powdery growth consistent with the fungus on numerous bats in the caves. Laboratory testing confirmed their suspicions.

This undated photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows small brown bats displaying white nose syndrome in a cave. A federal official says the fungus that causes a deadly disease in bats has been detected in California for the first time. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuge specialist Catherine Hibbard said Friday, July 5, 2019, that samples collected this spring from bats on private land in the Northern California town of Chester tested positive for the fungus. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)

White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in 36 states, including neighboring Texas and Oklahoma, and several Canadian provinces.

Officials said any new sign of its spread is worrisome because bats are vital for healthy ecosystems.

Although bats themselves are the primary way the fungus spreads, possible spread by human activity in caves is a concern. Officials advised people to stay out of closed caves and mines and to decontaminate footwear and all cave gear before and after visiting or touring caves and other places where bats live.

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