Louisiana biologists ask for help to detect deadly bat disease

The disease is not a threat to humans

Louisiana biologists ask for help to detect deadly bat disease
(Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are asking for the public’s help in monitoring the state’s bat population in an effort to detect a disease that has killed over six million bats in the U.S.

The disease is called White-nose syndrome and is caused by a fungus, neither of which is a threat to humans.

It is named for the white fungus found on bats’ muzzles and wings, attacks hibernating bats.

The disease was discovered in New York state in 2006-07. The fungus that causes the disease, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has spread rapidly.

White-nose syndrome has not been detected in Louisiana but has been detected in Arkansas. The Pseudogymnoascus destructans, fungus has been detected in Mississippi and Texas.

(Source: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

LDWF Wildlife Disease Biologist Nikki Anderson says that’s why it’s so important that Louisiana’s bat colonies are monitored.

Bats are vital to America and Louisiana’s agriculture industry because they eat insects, disperse seeds, and help with pollination.

“It’s estimated they save farmers billions annually in crop damage and reduced pesticide usage because of the insects they eat. They’re extremely beneficial. We don’t have any fruit bats or nectar feeding bats in Louisiana; all of our bat species consume insects.”
LDWF Wildlife Disease Biologist Nikki Anderson

It has not been found in Louisiana or Florida, the only two states with that distinction in the eastern United States.

Louisiana, which has 12 bat species, has four species of bats that have contracted white-nose syndrome in other parts of the country and four that have been found with the fungus but not the disease.

As part of a citizen-science initiative, LDWF is encouraging state residents to help in the program.

If you know the location of a roost or want to participate in bat monitoring please contact Anderson at nanderson@wlf.la.gov or 225-765-5030.

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