St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A disease that can decimate bat populations is spreading in Minnesota.

The State Department of Natural Resources says it recently confirmed cases of white nose syndrome in hibernating bat populations located in Fillmore, Goodhue, Dakota, Washington and Becker Counties. The disease was first confirmed in Minnesota last year in a bat population in St. Louis County, which means it is now present in at least a half-dozen Minnesota counties.

The DNR says the disease is associated with annual bat population declines ranging from around 30 to over 70-percent. There was a 73-percent drop in the bat population at the Soudan Underground Mine in northeastern Minnesota, which is where the state’s first cases of white nose syndrome were confirmed a year ago. The DNR also reported that a 39-percent drop was observed in an infected bat population in Fillmore County.

“While some locations are still testing negative, the results of recent surveys lead us to conclude that WNS is likely to be present anywhere bats hibernate in Minnesota,” said Ed Quinn, DNR natural resource program supervisor. “Four of Minnesota’s bat species hibernate, and four species migrate. WNS will have a substantial effect on Minnesota’s hibernating bat population. Neighboring states have reported declines of 70 to 95 percent in specific locations, as we recorded this year at Soudan Mine.”

Officials say white nose syndrome got its name from the white fungal growth that appears on infected bats. It was first confirmed in the U.S. in 2007 in New York state and has now been confirmed in 30 states. While humans may play a role in the spread of the disease, it is not known to pose a threat to people, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

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