Deadly bat disease suspected in Buncombe County

The deadly bat disease known as white-nose syndrome is probably present in Buncombe County, according to a new report from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The news raises the number of affected counties in Western North Carolina to four. Since its initial appearance in a New York cave in 2006, the fungal disease has killed bats at a startling rate. Biologists worry that mortality from the disease is so high, we may be witnessing an extinction event.

A dead bat, found outside a Buncombe County residence, was submitted for lab testing after agency biologists suspected it had the disease. Tests results indicate that the bat was positive for Geomyces destructans, the fungal organism associated with the syndrome.

Wildlife biologist Gabrielle Graeter tells Xpress that the fungus could not be cultured in the lab, and there was no evidence of infection based on a microscopic evaluation.

“Confirmed positive bats are those that fulfill the histopathologic criteria for the disease. There has to be evidence of a specific pattern of fungal colonization of the epidermis [skin],” Graeter said. “Thus, this bat is given the ‘suspect’ designation.”

Readers can view the WNS map maintained by the N.C. Wildlife Commission.

For more background on white-nose syndrome in WNC, see the Xpress article here or in print in our April 19 issue.

Photos by Jonathan Welch.

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