"A sad day" for Michigan bats: White-nose syndrome found in 3 counties

Apr 10, 2014

This little brown bat is showing symptoms of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease blamed for the deaths of 6 million bats in the U.S. and Canada since 2006.
Credit Ryan Von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

A fungal disease that has decimated bat populations in other parts of the U.S. and Canada has been found in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome in three counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac.

White-nose syndrome is blamed for the deaths of six million bats in 27 states and five Canadian provinces since 2006. In some places where the fungus outbreak has taken hold, 90% of the bats have died. 

“We anticipated that this day would come. It’s not unexpected. But it’s still a sad day,” says Dan O’Brien, a state wildlife veterinarian. “Once this fungus gets into a bat hibernacula it’s going to be there, current evidence suggests, for a long time.”

The fungal disease could have a big impact on Michigan’s economy. Wildlife biologists estimate bats have a roughly $1 billion impact on the state’s agriculture industry by eating harmful insects.

State wildlife officials plan to try to limit human access to caves and other places bats hibernate to limit stress on the bats and slow the spread of the fungal disease.

There are about 300,000 bats in Michigan that may be at risk.