Bat fungus turns up in Texas
The fungus that causes the deadly white-nose syndrome in hibernating bats has been detected in Texas, federal and state officials announced Thursday.
White-nose syndrome has led to the deaths of as many as 6 million bats in North America over the last decade, though scientists think non-hibernating bats, like those found beneath the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, are not susceptible to the disease.
Swabs taken from the wings of bats in caves in January and February in an area northeast of Lubbock were found last week to be positive for the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The fungus thrives in cold, humid environments and invades the skin of bats, disrupting their hibernation and depleting their fat stores; white-nose syndrome is named for the spread of the fungus around the muzzle of the hibernating bats.
First discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-07, whitenose syndrome has spread quickly in the U.S. and Canada.
“There is still hope for bats in Texas,” state Parks and Wildlife Department state mammalogist Jonah Evans said. “The fungus thrives in colder climates and it remains to be seen if (white nose syndrome) will have the same serious impacts in Texas as it has in northern states.”
In Texas, 20 of the 32 species of bats do not regularly hibernate and “we are hopeful they will not suffer significant population declines.”
The officials said surveys in sites this year in Central Texas were negative for the fungus.
But non-hibernating species can still spread the fungus, and bat watchers say the discovery in Texas could foretell many more deaths.
“This discovery is significant because it occurs where the ranges of eastern, southern, and western bat species intersect, and two of these bats have extensive distributions in Central America and the West — beyond the current range of the disease,” said Jeremy Coleman, national white-nose syndrome coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Migratory Mexican freetailed bats, which roost in the millions at popular sites such as Bracken Bat Cave, just north of San Antonio and Old Tunnel State Park, south of Fredericksburg, are not expected to be at high risk for the disease. part, a spectacular start to spring. The wildflowers have been blooming well ahead of schedule. Temperatures have consistently reached the 80s. Lawnmowers across the region are working overtime to keep up with grasses that are swelling faster than an angry Bruce Banner.
May might typically be the rainiest, most flood-prone month, but this year has been marked by weather occurring several months earlier than it typically does.
More storms probably are on the way. The weather service is forecasting isolated thunderstorms to arrive Tuesday, with scattered storms in the Wednesday forecast.
Other disturbances in the Pacific could mean more storms moving into the region in the near future, Kimmel said.
Those disturbances, he said, “will have the Plains states in their sights over the next two weeks.”