Deadly Fungus Detected in Louisiana Could Kill Millions of Bats

The harmful fungus causes a disease called white-nose syndrome, which can be detrimental to bats.

White-nose syndrome bat
Photo: Getty Images/Carolyn Cole

Bad news for bats in Louisiana! A dangerous fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which causes a deadly disease called white-nose syndrome, has been detected in the state. White-nose syndrome was first detected in Albany, New York, in February 2006. Since then, it has resulted in the deaths of more than 6 million bats in the United States and has been detected in 37 states and seven Canadian provinces. It is not contagious to humans or other animals.

In Louisiana, specifically, the fungus was first detected in samples collected from Brazilian free-tailed bats in Natchitoches Parish during surveillance sampling in 2021, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Though deadly under the right conditions, the fungus doesn't always lead to white-nose syndrome. The fungus loves the cold, so when bats hibernate and their body temperatures drop, they become extremely susceptible to the disease, which leads to dehydration and starvation.

Bats with white-nose syndrome can be identified through the characteristic white fungus substance that appears on their muzzle and wings when afflicted. Additionally, if you see a bat flying in the daytime during hibernation season, it could also be an indicator of infection. White-nose syndrome causes bats to wake from hibernation more frequently and exhibit unusual behavior like flying during the day.

"The increased activity levels reduce or completely deplete fat reserves critical for hibernation, resulting in death," the LDWF wrote in a release about the deadly disease.

Currently, LDWF is monitoring bat hibernation and roost locations to look for signs of the disease. So far, no evidence of white-nose syndrome has been detected. Of Louisiana's 12 bat species, three are susceptible to white-nose syndrome. Fortunately, warmer winter temperatures in Louisiana this year have allowed bats to feed during winter months, meaning the effects of white-nose syndrome may be diminished.

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Here's hoping a major outbreak stays away!

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