Little Brown Bat with White Nose Syndrome (Courtesy: Craig Stihler, WV Division of Natural Resources)
November 8, 2010
Virginia scientists are monitoring caves to determine the possible spread of a disease threatening entire bat populations along the East Coast.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says more than a million bats have died so far in the Northeast, where white-nose syndrome was discovered by an upstate New York cave in 2006.
"The Roanoke Times" reports that to get a better idea of what's happening in Virginia, scientists are monitoring bats in the caves where they hibernate.
The disease is named for the white markings it leaves on an infected bat's snout, ears and wings. It's a fungus that irritates bats' skin and can awaken them from hibernation prematurely and cause them to starve to death.
Scientists told the newspaper that when bats are awake when they shouldn't be, they burn off crucial body fat as they flap around the cave.