MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A fungus that has been linked to bat colony decimation has been confirmed in two Minnesota State Parks, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The fungus is known to cause white-nose syndrome (WNS), which is a disease that is harmful and mostly fatal to hibernating bats, the DNR said. The fungus has reportedly decimated bat populations in eastern portions of the United States and Canada.
The DNR said the fungus was detected at Soudan Underground Mine State Park and Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.
Only a few bats have tested positive for the fungus so far, but the discovery has serious implications. If the Minnesota goes the way of other states, the disease is likely to be present in Minnesota bats in two to three years.
“This is bad news for an important mammal in our ecosystem,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources Division, which oversees the agency’s nongame wildlife program. “We’re prepared with special protocols to help keep the fungus from spreading.”
Minnesota has seven species of bats, four of which hibernate during the winter, which makes them more likely to contract the disease.