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  • Dylan Anderson

First Colorado bat found with white-nose syndrome. Fungus was seen in Routt County last summer.

Colorado recorded it's first case of white-nose syndrome, which kills bats. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Courtesy)

Colorado wildlife officials confirmed a bat east of Colorado Springs last month was infected with a disease that stems from an invasive fungus also found in Routt County last year, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The bat’s infection with the illness — white-nose syndrome — is the first of its kind in state history.

“After the discovery of (the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destuctans) last year, we expected this news was inevitable in a year or two,” said Tina Jackson, species conservations coordinator for the agency, in a release on Monday. “We’ve been monitoring the fungus for a number of years and this is the same pattern seen in other states.”

Last summer, officials with the National Parks Service found a bat at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic site outside of La Junta, Colorado with the presence of the fungus, though none of the 25 bats captured at the time exhibited signs of white-nose syndrome. The fungus was also found in Routt, Baca and Larimer counties last summer.

On March 29, park officials found a female bat on the ground, unable to fly that appeared to have a white powdery substance on its forearms, CPW said in the release. The bat was euthanized and sent to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center for testing, which confirmed the bat had lesions that are common with white-nose syndrome.

State parks and wildlife officials in partnership with the parks service and geological survey will continue to study bats across Colorado and have plans to do additional surveys this year. These surveys hope to study the impacts of white-nose syndrome on native bats.

“We are working with our partners to monitor these and other bat colonies,” Jackson said, adding that scientists around the world are working to find a vaccine or other treatment for the disease. “We will implement the most effective measures to ensure our bats’ continued survival throughout our state.”

In August, Steamboat Pilot & Today reported that Routt County is likely home to tens of thousands of bats — mostly little brown bats. The bat found dead in March was a Yuma bat.

Robert Schorr, a Colorado State University conservation biologist, studied two colonies of bats in Routt County last summer looking for white-nose syndrome as part of ongoing monitoring for the illness and the fungus that causes it. Schorr told the newspaper that he estimates 500 bats roost at a ranch near Lake Catamount, and another 400 at the Carpenter Ranch east of Hayden.

White-nose syndrome was first seen in New York in 2006 and has since been confirmed in a dozen different North American bat species. The fungus does not infect humans or pets, but it can be transported on gear and clothing that has been in contact with infected environments such as caves where bats hibernate. i

Of 19 bat species in Colorado, CPW suspects at least 13 of them are susceptible to the disease.

“The impact of the disease in Colorado could be devastating,” the release states. “Any large-scale loss of bats would spell trouble for the health of Colorado’s ecosystems and economy, given estimates that these voracious insect eaters contribute $3 billion annually to the U.S> agricultural economy through pest control.”


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