Sometimes, “firsts” are exciting, like when an infant takes his first steps or a young angler catches her first fish. But when it comes to wildlife diseases, the first detection of a disease in a state is not exciting news.
At the end of March, biologists reported the first detection in Texas of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats. Hibernating bats that tested positive for the fungus came from six North Texas counties: Childress, Collingsworth, Cottle, Hardeman, King, and Scurry.
White-nose fungus thrives in cold climates and has killed millions of hibernating bats in the U.S. and Canada, in some cases causing devastating reductions in wintering bat populations. Whether or not the disease will become a problem in Texas, where temperatures are warmer and most bat species do not hibernate, is currently unknown.
Biologists are looking for landowners with winter bat roosts to help them track the fungus. You can find more information in TPWD’s news release. You can also help prevent the spread of the fungus by following decontamination protocols if you have entered any caves.
Bats are an often-overlooked yet critical part of our rangelands. Read more about their role in rangeland ecosystems in today’s NatNotes.