Lethal bat disease found in two Dade County, Ga., caves

Lethal bat disease found in two Dade County, Ga., caves

March 12th, 2013 by Staff Report in Local Regional News

In a Dec. 16, 2011 photograph, a little brown bat is swabbed during a white nose syndrome study at New Mammoth Cave near LaFollette, Tenn. (AP Photo/Amy Smotherman Burgess, Knoxville News Sentinel)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease estimated to have killed nearly 7 million bats across North America, has been discovered in two Dade County, Ga., caves, according to a news release.

One of the caves is in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, operated by the National Park Service, and the other is at Cloudland Canyon State Park. The disease was documented on the Tennessee side of the military park last year and reported in South Carolina one day ago, according to Millie Matteson with the Center for Biological Diversity in Richmond, Vt.

"White-nose syndrome's attack on North American bats is continuing unabated," Matteson, a bat specialist, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, despite the disease's relentless push across the country, the response of state and federal wildlife agencies has been astonishingly passive."

The disease, which affects bats during hibernation, has no cure. It has affected seven species, including two that are federally endangered, the Indiana bat and the gray bat.

Scientists fear continued spread of the disease endangers and could lead to the extinction of many of North America's two dozen hibernating bat species.