Scientists try to halt spread of deadly bat disease in Canada

July 30, 2013 at 3:21 PM
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OTTAWA, July 30 (UPI) -- Canadian biologists say they're concerned a deadly disease that's wiping out bat populations may be expanding across northern Ontario.

The scientists say they're taking precautions against a further spread of a fungus known as White Nose Syndrome, already decimating bats in Quebec and eastern Ontario, CBC News reported Tuesday.

"If we were working in a mine near Sudbury -- a mine in which bats would hibernate -- and then we were going to an old mine near Lake Superior, we'd be very careful not to use any of the same equipment or clothing," Western University bat expert Brock Fenton said.

Bats need to be protected, he said, as important inhabitants of the ecosystem that help keep insect populations under control.

"It's very hard to tell how important something is in an ecosystem until it's gone," Fenton, who's been studying bats since 1963, said. "Bat biologists have changed their behavior [and are] now being very careful not to contaminate the site."

Efforts to slow the spread of the disease can only be somewhat successful, he cautioned.

"I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before it shows up," he said. "It's lethal. It kills thousands of bats."

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