New Louisiana Fungus Could Put Bat Population in Jeopardy
According to the LSU AgCenter, there are currently 12 species of bats in Louisiana. Although they can be scary, these flying nocturnal mammals are extremely beneficial to humans as they eat a lot of insects and pollenate tons of plants. Unfortunately, these denizens of the night might be in danger due to a very specific fungus that has just been found in the Sportsman's Paradise.
According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), results from a surveillance sampling conducted last year in Natchitoches Parish revealed that Pseudogymnoascus destructans was present in local Brazilian free-tailed bats. This vile-sounding fungus can be fatal, and if it spreads - it could be devastating to Louisiana's bat population.
Destructans is not a communicable disease per se, as it isn't contagious to humans or even other animals. This psychrophilic (cold-loving) fungus passes from bat to bat when they hibernate. When infected, the bats can develop a condition known as "White-Nose Syndrome." This condition is reportedly responsible for killing more than 6 million bats in North America since it was first detected in Albany, New York in February of 2006.
The fungus infects the bat's skin and irritates them to the point that they can't sleep. That's when they start behaving erratically and doing things like flying during the daytime hours. All of that extra activity burns off fat reserves they need to survive hibernation. Without it, the bats starve to death.
Since Louisiana has a much milder winter than northern states that have experienced this same issue, the fungus may not spread as fast or as far here. LDWF officials are conducting further studies to ascertain the full impact on our states night-time fliers.