Bat Disease Becomes Deadly Problem in Kentucky

Apr 22, 2011, 08:41 by David Hope

Kentucky officials say a devastating bat disease has been detected in the state and could affect operations at the state's famous Mammoth Cave tourist site.

After the disease, dubbed white-nose syndrome, was found in Trigg County in southwest Kentucky, authorities said they anticipate the likely spread of the disease and its devastating effects, which include an impact on the agriculture industry, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported.

"If we have high rates of mortality, assuming white nose continues to spread, then you are looking at large scale loss of the primary night time predator of flying insects," Mike Armstrong of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. "That translates into all kinds of different things [such as] more mosquitoes, more moths, and more pesticide use for agriculture."

A recent study published in the journal Science found insect-eating bats were a natural pest-control resource, saving American agriculture between $3.7 billion and $53 billion a year.

"This is likely the most significant disease threat to wildlife Kentucky has ever seen," state wildlife resources Commissioner Jonathan Gassett said. "We plan to aggressively manage this threat of [white nose syndrome] as it occurs in Kentucky in order to protect and conserve our bat populations."

Kentucky and federal agencies have taken measures to limit potential movement of the fungal disease, including closures of caves on state and federal lands as well as asking private owners to voluntarily close caves if bats gather in them, The Courier-Journal reported.

Source: UPI