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Continued: Fungus devastating to bats found at two Minnesota sites

From now on, visitors will be asked to walk across special mats that remove fungus spores from their shoes, and they’ll be warned not to wear the same clothes if they visit other bat caves because standard laundering does not remove the spores, said Ed Quinn, natural resource coordinator for DNR’s Parks and Trails Division.

“We’re hoping to reduce the chances of [it] taking those big leaps caused by human transmission,” Quinn said.

The fungus was found in Minnesota as part of a national study tracking its spread across the country. Gerda Nordquist, a state mammalogist, said the fungus was detected on the wings of four bats at the two sites — three little brown bats and one long-eared bat. A total of 47 bats at five hibernation caves were tested.

Mystery Cave, in southeastern Minnesota, has about 2,300 bats. Soudan Underground Mine, in the northeastern part of the state, has 10,000 to 15,000 bats.

If the pattern established in other states holds true here, the disease is likely to show up within two to three years, officials said. And then the outcome will likely be swift and long term.

Bats are mammals that live up to 30 years and reproduce only once a year, Nordquist said. That means a population could take years to recover, if at all.

In Europe, where the fungus is common, bats have developed immunity — which would be an ideal outcome for American bats, Coleman said. But their numbers could fall so low that it becomes impossible for their populations to recover, and they would, in effect, be extinct, he said.

Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394

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