While animals are indeed faced quite often with die-offs, that doesn’t make them less of a tragedy. And when a disease is threatening to kill off entire populations, if not to wipe out entire species, the situations is even worse if it was easily preventable. This most recent die-off involves the only flying mammals.
To the chagrin of animal experts and animal activists all over the United Sates, White-nose syndrome is killing bats as far as Washington. The disease only recently reached the capital’s home state, but it has already started leaving its mark on the furry flying mammal populations.
People from the Center for Biological Diversity are the ones who reported the first case in Washington state after a small brown bat was found by hikers on a trail some thirty miles east of Seattle. The animal was found on March 11th, alive but unable to fly by a group of hikers.
As the concerned animal lovers brought the tiny, weakened mammal to a PAWS shelter, the veterinarians had already started suspecting what the cause might be. Even though it was still alive when it was brought in, there was nothing the team could have done for the small brown bat, which died in a cage two days later.
100 percent fatality rate
And that was the first reported case in Western United States of the disease that killed some 6 million bats in North America. CDB officials are already doing the best they can to limit the spread of the incredibly infectious and fatal disease. One small oversight and the bat populations could start dying off in their entirety.
The disease is actually a fungal infection, and it affects quite a large number of bat species, including the little brown bat, the Indiana bat, the tricolored bat, and even the northern long-eared bat. Even more dangerous is the fact that it has already reported death rates of 100% in certain bat colonies and cave systems.
While the highly infectious disease is not known to affect animals other than bats, it’s not impossible that the virus might mutate, particularly since it was most likely brought to the Northwest by careless spelunkers.
Since humans can’t catch the disease, it means that people roamed around caves in which bats suffering from the disease were already infected and then came into contact with other bats in and/or around Washington. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to explain how the infectious fungus traveled the 1,250 miles from the last place it was spotted.
The real tragedy is that everything could have easily been avoided with just a few guidelines offered by the Center for Biological Diversity way back in 2010. Wildlife and land managers would just have to ask amateur spelunkers to wash their clothes and footwear immediately after visiting a cave, and none of this would have happened.
Image source: Wikimedia