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White-Nose Syndrome Leaves Wildlife Biologists Worried

Update Date: Apr 25, 2014 12:03 PM EDT

White-nose syndrome is on the move and has spread to 25 states and five Canadian provinces, according to new reports. 

The disease was discovered in New York in 2006 and has got its name from a white fungus found on bats' muzzles, ears and wings. 

Wild-life biologists agreed that the threat was real and no one knew who to stop the spread. 

"Some of the bats, especially this species, (we) find some of them dead. But, we really expect a lot of the deaths to occur next year - next winter," said Rick Toomey, a scientist with the Resource Management Division at Mammoth Cave, in a press release. 

Experts added that particularly in Tennessee, the disease has spread fast. 

"It's a reality that almost any cave we go into these days will have white-nose syndrome if it has a significant number of bats," said David Pelren, a biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "There may be a few caves that don't have white-nose syndrome yet. But, it's becoming, Tennessee is becoming rather saturated with white-nose syndrome."

A team of researchers from the Georgia Natural Department of Resources also searched for signs of the disease in a cave near Atlanta after it was discovered in a cave near the city. 

"Bats, sometimes, are considered things like the canary in the coal mine," said Katrina Morris, a biologist with the department, who also led the research in Atlanta. "We need to pay attention when they're having problems with things like this. They're a vulnerable, small animal that has relatively few young and are relatively long-lived for their size. So, they can show impact from some of these diseases and changes in the environment that can later impact us."

According to U.S. Geological Survey, bats save the country's agricultural industry between $4 and $50 billion a year in pest control services. 

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