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      Fatal fungus infects Upper Michigan's bat population

      White-nose syndrome is a fungus that attacks and eventually kills bats.

      â??If something doesn't change with either the fungus or there's a cure, we're looking at a continental extinction event,â?? said DNR Wildlife Biologist, Bill Scullon.

      The White-Nose Syndrome comes from a European-originated fungus that kills specifically bats, and it's been confirmed in the Upper Peninsula.

      â??It showed up in North America in Albany, New York in a cave in 2006. Michigan announced that we have confirmed it in three sites: Dickinson, Mackinac, and Alpena counties,â?? Scullon said.

      The fungus isn't always visible, but it's deadly because it attacks the bat when it's the most vulnerable: in hibernation.

      â??Itâ??s kind of the perfect storm of factors. You have a disease that only grows on bats, only grows in the cold, only when bats are in hibernation and it can spread really quickly,â?? Scullon said.

      The fungus will cause the bat to wake up prematurely, burn their remaining fat reserves from hibernation, and with no insects to eat during the winter, they'll either die in the site, or fly outside and die by the elements.

      The fungus only affects bats, so humans are not at risk for the disease, but they can spread it, which is why prevention is key. The DNR is asking people to not go into any hibernacula, which includes mines or caves, because the spores collects on shoes, clothes, and backpacks, and since the spores can live indefinitely, the fungus can easily spread.

      â??Iâ??m very concerned about this because environmentally it takes its toll on mosquitos and bugs around the U.P.,â?? said State Representative, Scott Dianda. â??I sit on the DNR DEQ for the House of Representatives along with Ed McBroom and John Kivela, and we're always worried about what happens out there as far as the environment.â??

      The DNR has developed a WNS response plan to prevent the spread of the disease caused by human-assisted movement and to conserve remaining bat populations after the disease has arrived.

      â??They estimate that north of six million bats have died because of this disease on the continent so far,â?? Scullen said.