Fuller notes that possible spread of the fungus could have dangerous consequences. “The mortality rate of this White Nose Syndrome disease is around the 95 to 98 percent range,” he says.
Blake Sasse, a non-game mammal biologist with the State Game and Fish Commission, says he and his colleagues will further their efforts to study the spread of the fungus in the coming months.
“We are planning to go and survey caves near these sites where we've found the fungus this winter to try to see how far it may have spread and to see if it has developed into actual White Nose Syndrome,” says Sasse.
Sasse notes there are about 8 species of bats in Arkansas that may be susceptible to the disease, including the endangered Big Brown Bat. Wildlife officials note that bats are beneficial because they eat insects that harm agricultural crops.
The fungus has been steadily spreading through the eastern half of the U.S. since 2006, when it was first discovered in New York. Arkansas closed all state-owned bat caves in 2009 and 2010 to prevent spread of the fungus by humans. White Nose Syndrome does not affect humans, however.