MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A disease infecting the northern long-eared bat could place it on the endangered species list.

The disease, called white-nose syndrome, has impacted bats in a number of states. Rich Baker, endangered species coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources, says a large number have died off.

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“In the states where that’s occurred, especially in Vermont, declines of these species have been 99 percent,” Baker said.

He says last year, the DNR found the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in caves, but they have yet to find any infected bats.

“We know it’s coming,” Baker said. “It’s been found in Wisconsin and Michigan, but not yet in Minnesota.”

The fungus is not the problem; it’s how the bats react. The fungus irritates them, and causes them to wake during winter sleep. Then, the bats search for food that’s hard to find during the winter. While it searches, it uses up its fat stores and then dies.

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If the bats are placed on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that could translate into serious problems for Minnesota’s lumber industry.

Baker says trees are where the long-eared bats reproduce in the summer, and where they keep their young that can’t fly.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that Greg Bernu, land commissioner for Carlton County, says permits would be required for tree removal if the listing moved forward.

“This would directly impact at least 34 loggers we work with, the paper mill and our county crews as well,” Bernu said.

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A final decision on the bats’ future will be made in October.