Bat fun­gus turns up in Texas

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Asher Price ash­er­price@states­

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.”

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