Biologists study bats for deadly disease in Alexander County, Il - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Biologists study bats for deadly disease in Alexander County, Ill.

Biologist's are studying bats in Alexander County, Illinois for a disease that's killed millions of bats in North America. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) Biologist's are studying bats in Alexander County, Illinois for a disease that's killed millions of bats in North America. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
Biologists found an abandoned mine in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest that bats now call home. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) Biologists found an abandoned mine in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest that bats now call home. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
White-Nose Syndrome is a degenerative fungi that consumes healthy tissue. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) White-Nose Syndrome is a degenerative fungi that consumes healthy tissue. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Biologist's are studying bats in Alexander County, Illinois for a disease that's killed millions of bats in North America.

Biologists from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and Southern Illinois University Carbondale worked April 7 and 8 to study bats in Alexander County for the disease.

White-Nose Syndrome is a degenerative fungi that consumes healthy tissue.

Biologists found an abandoned mine in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest that bats now call home.

The scientists set up a net in front of the mine and waited for bats to fly out, they then inspected the bats for signs of the disease and released them.

Signs of the disease on bats include holes in wings and a white covered nose -- the fungi can also be found by holding an ultraviolet light over a contaminated subject.

Bats like cold, dark conditions -- The mine stays 48' Fahrenheit year round, but it's also the perfect condition for the fungi to grow.

Bats are an important part of the eco-system according to wildlife biologist Rod McClanahan, recently retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We need to know how it's effecting these local winter bat populations," McClanahan said. "Because in some areas they've seen as high as 98% mortality on some species of bats.”

The winged critters can eat up to their body weight in insects each night, McClanahan said.

An average bat weighs 6.5 grams or a little more than a tenth of a pound.

Bats are important to controlling the population of bugs that cause disease and kill crops, McClanahan said.

While it has no known effects on humans, White-Nose Syndrome is known to be fatal to many species of bats.

“When they go in to hibernation, their metabolism drops. And their immunity levels drop," McClanahan said.

The disease is believed to have been introduced to the United States in 2007 from Eastern Europe, McClanahan said.

Several bats have been found in Illinois' Saline, Union, Jackson, and Johnson counties.

White-Nose Syndrome is a fungi that is transferred through contact.

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