AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Parks and Wildlife says Texas has one of the largest congregation of bats in the entire world and Austin is no exception. Hundreds of people come to Central Texas to see the bats, but a recent disease discovered among a local bat could hurt the animal’s population.
“In general, our bats are in trouble,” said Nate Fuller, Statewide Bat Specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Texas Parks and Wildlife have confirmed a bat in Central Texas to have white-nose syndrome.
“This disease is in places where it has really affected bats for numerous years and has led to nearly wiping out all of the individuals in those regions,” said Fuller.
Fuller says the disease is known to cause a major decline in bat populations.
“With the disease having just now been found here, we're starting to see, we think, the beginning of this decline, but we're trying to stay optimistic,” he said.
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White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that targets hibernating bats.
“A white fungus grows on their forearms, on their nose, and it grows into their skin and bothers them to the point that during hibernation, they wake up more often than they should when there aren't enough bugs for them to eat and they eventually starve to death and they die,” said Fuller.
Bats are an important part of the ecosystem here in Texas, and Fuller says Texas Parks and Wildlife are very concerned for the bat population in Austin.
“Right now, we're mostly concerned about the cave bat, which is called Myotis Velifer. We're also concerned about the tricolor bat," Fuller said.
The bats that live in many of the Austin bridges are called Mexican Free-tailed bats. Fuller says right now, those bats look safe.
“That's not to say we can't be concerned about it, because the free-tails are very capable of moving this disease. That's one of the concerns we have about transmission if the free-tails get it and they move a very long distance across the state or even to other states, they can transmit it to other species that have yet to experience white nose,” said Fuller.