White-nose syndrome, a disease that can kill bats, confirmed in Minnesota

Media contacts: Ed Quinn, Natural Resource Program consultant, Parks and Trails Division, 651-259-5594, edward.quinn@state.mn.us;

Gerda Nordquist, Minnesota Biological Survey supervisor/mammalogist, Ecological and Water Resources Division, 651-259-5124, gerda.nordquist@state.mn.us;

Jim Essig, park manager, Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, 218-300-7003, jim.essig@state.mn.us

White-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease that is harmful and usually fatal to hibernating bats, has been confirmed at Lake Vermilion - Soudan Underground Mine State Park in northeastern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Starting in late January, several hundred bats have been found dead near the main entrance to the mine. Subsequent testing of bats sent on Feb. 12 to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center confirmed the bats were infected by WNS.

 First documented in North America in 2007 in eastern New York, WNS has since spread to 27 states and five Canadian provinces, killing more than 5.7 million bats. The disease is named for the fuzzy white growth of fungus observed on infected bats. It is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

In 2013, the fungus that causes the WNS disease was discovered at Soudan Underground Mine and at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in southeastern Minnesota. It is typical for disease symptoms to appear two to three years after discovery of the fungus.

“We’ve been following the recommended procedures to try to protect the bats from white-nose syndrome,” said Jim Essig, park manager at Lake Vermilion – Soudan Underground Mine State Park. “Now that it’s here, we will continue to do everything we can at our parks to prevent human transport of fungal spores to other sites.”

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Image(s): 
White-nose syndrome map updated March 9, 2016