Deaths of bats in western North Dakota caused by fungus

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A fungus that affects bats caused the death of little brown bats in western North Dakota, the first documented case of the disease killing bats in the state, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said Wednesday.

The agency said Wednesday that the bats died of white-nose syndrome. Early this month, the Southwest District Health Unit in Dickinson contacted the Game and Fish Department about dead bats found in Medora. Six were submitted to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and the bats all tested positive for the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease of hibernating bats.

Officials said it’s the second time the fungus has been detected in North Dakota but the first documented deaths in bats in the state attributed to white-nose syndrome, which can lead to dehydration or other conditions that kill bats.

The fungus was found about a year ago on a live bat at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site near Stanton.

Game and Fish conservation biologist Patrick Isakson said the department is working with several federal agencies to screen for the fungus and white-nose syndrome in North Dakota.

White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in bats from 35 U.S. states and seven Canadian provinces so far.