A disease that has killed over 6 million bats nationwide was discovered in the Upstate mountains of South Carolina for the first time last year. Now, South Carolina wildlife officials say it has spread to the Midlands.
The state Department of Natural Resources said Monday that white-nose syndrome has been discovered in a bat for the first time in Richland County this spring.
“We don’t know if that was a bat that migrated down or if it’s a bat that was overwintering in Richland County,” the agency’s bat coordinator Mary Bunch told South Carolina Radio Network. The syndrome is caused by a white fungus that grows on bats while they are hibernating. Because the bats’ immune system largely shuts down during hibernation, the disease can ravage colonies in the winter months. It spreads by microscopic spores that stick in the bats’ fur.
In 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the disease had been detected in 16 states. Just two years later it has now infected bats in at least 25 states, according to DNR.
“It’s terrible news,” Bunch said. “We’re talking over 90 percent mortality in the Northeast in some species. At some sites, it’s 98 percent mortality. That’s catastrophic.”