White Nose Syndrome
The threat level for WNS is high, bats are dying in large numbers.

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White nose syndrome (WNS)
 is a poorly understood malady associated with the deaths of more than a million bats.

The condition, named for a distinctive fungal growth around the muzzles and on the wings of many affected animals, was first identified in a cave in Schoharie County, New York, USA, in February 2006, and started showing up in the news after January 2007.

Alan Hicks with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has described the impact as "unprecedented" and "the gravest threat to bats ... ever seen." The mortality rate in some caves has exceeded 90 percent.

A once common species, little brown myotis, has suffered a major population collapse and may be at risk of rapid extinction in the northeastern US within 20 years from mortality associated with WNS.

There are currently 9 hibernating bat species confirmed with infection of Geomyces destructans and at least 5 of those species have suffered major mortality. Some of those species are already listed as endangered on the US endangered species list, including the Indiana bat, whose primary hibernaculum in New York has been affected.

The long-term impact of the reduction in bat populations may be an increase in insects, possibly even leading to crop damage or other economic impact in New England.

Bat colonies have been decimated throughout the northeastern US and has spread into mid-atlantic states and northward into Canada. This deprives the country, especially during the spring and summer, of a valuable natural pesticide as bats consume huge quantities of insects: as much as their own body weight each night.

The Forest Service estimates that the die-off from white-nose syndrome means that at least 2.4 million pounds of bugs (1.1million kg) will go uneaten and become a financial burden to farmers.

Crop production may require more insecticide, raising environmental worries and pushing up grocery prices. Furthermore, the disease could threaten an already endangered species, such as Indiana bats and the big-eared bat, the official state bat of Virginia.

Comparisons have been raised to colony collapse disorder, another poorly-understood phenomenon resulting in the abrupt disappearance of Western honey bee colonies, and with chytridiomycosis, a fungal skin disease linked with worldwide declines in amphibian populations.

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