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BEND, OR -- State wildlife officials are monitoring for a deadly disease in local bats, after White Nose Syndrome was found in a little brown bat in Washington. Colin Gillin is a veterinarian with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He tells KBND News Central Oregon is key to monitoring for the disease due to the large number of caves throughout the region. "We do not have caves throughout the state where we have millions of bats; at least not that we know of like you might see at Carlsbad Caverns or some of the big bat caves we see down in the southwestern part of the United States. Our caves generally have less than 100 bats in them."

 

Dr. Gillin says bats eat thousands of flying insects each night and are key to our ecosystem. White Nose Syndrome causes unusual behavior in infected bats. He says, "It is a disease that disrupts the bats’ hibernation. Also, it causes problems with their skin; it’s a fungus that attaches to the bat and causes a skin infection and wakes the bat up in the middle of winter." And, he says waking too early from hibernation can lead to the bat using up its winter fat reserves too early and can lead to death.
 
White Nose Syndrome has been found in 28 states; so far, it has not been found in Oregon. Anyone who sees a sick bat should report it. "We have an online reporting site," says Dr. Gillin. "They can also call and contact their local ODFW office and biologist and report any bats that you might be seeing flying in the middle of the day or unusual behavior, any bats on the ground and appear sick. We’re not asking anyone to pick the bats up, because there is always the risk of rabies." ODFW recently launched its online bat reporting site, to track possible sightings. 

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