Home News Local News Fungus linked to bat disease found in eastern New Mexico

Fungus linked to bat disease found in eastern New Mexico

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The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday that a fungus linked to disease in bats has been detected in two eastern New Mexico caves managed by the Roswell field office.

Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) was detected on hibernating bats and cave walls in De Baca and Lincoln counties. The fungus can result in white-nose syndrome (WNS), which can kill bats, the BLM indicated. The fungus does not affect humans or pets.

White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in North America, according to the announcement. The syndrome has been found in 36 states, including Texas and Oklahoma, and in seven Canadian provinces. The fungus has been identified in an additional three states.

“Any new sign of its spread is worrisome because bats are vital for healthy ecosystems,” the announcement stated. “According to the journal Science (2011), bats are voracious insect-eaters that contribute at least $3 billion annually to the U.S. agricultural economy through pest control.”

Bats are the primary spreaders of the fungus, but experts still have concerns about human activity that could result in the spread.

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According to the guidance established under the national WNS response plan, New Mexico is in the “intermediate” category for decontamination protocols because it borders Texas, where WNS has been confirmed. Safety measures include not wearing clothing and gear in a cave where the status of Pd fungus is not known if those items have been worn somewhere where the fungus has been found. Detailed decontamination guidance can be found at https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/topics/decontamination.

The BLM indicated that the Pd fungus was found on numerous cave bats and cave walls during a routine WNS surveillance conducted in April. Tests were performed by the University of New Mexico and Northern Arizona University and verified by the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center.

Samples from Ft. Stanton Cave in Lincoln County were tested but with inconclusive results.

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