MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - There’s new evidence that a deadly bat disease is getting closer to Wisconsin.
Officials in neighboring Minnesota say they’ve found the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome at two places in the Gopher State. One is at Forestville-Mystery Cave, about 50 miles west of the Wisconsin border at Vernon County. The other spot is in northeast Minnesota at the Soudan Underground Mine.
Paul White of the Wisconsin DNR calls the new discoveries a “major disappointment.” An outbreak could be a big problem for Wisconsin farmers, who rely on the bats to help kill insects and prevent crop loss.
White says it’s inevitable that the Badger State will be hit with the fungal disease, which has killed almost 6 million bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada.
Last year, white-nose was confirmed at an Iowa cave about 30 miles from the Wisconsin border. It’s also been spotted to the south in Illinois.
The disease causes bats to wake up during their hibernation. It rapidly depletes their energy supplies.
In May, the DNR said it found no evidence of white-nose syndrome in 73 popular hibernating spots in Wisconsin. An estimated 300,000 bats hibernate in the Upper Midwest in the wintertime.
In 2011, Wisconsin added four types of bats to its threatened species’ list. Visitors to caves are often asked to wipe off their shoes before entering and leaving, to keep the disease from spreading.