NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been detected in bats for the first time in New Mexico. Two dead bats have been tested positively for the disease and two live bats were found with wounds containing the fungal pathogen that causes WNS.

Some of the diseased bats were found in Lincoln County and some were found in De Baca County. Although the pathogen had previously been detected in New Mexico, these are the first cases of the WNS fungal disease.

The Bureau of Land Management of New Mexico says, “WNS is a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America since 2006. A powdery, white fungus grows on the skin of hibernating bats, often on the face, leading to irritation and dehydration. This causes bats to arouse early from hibernation and exhaust fat stores they need to survive the winter, often leading to death.”

The disease is a risk for all hibernating species of bats, which comprise more than half of New Mexico’s bat population. “We will continue to coordinate with our state, federal, tribal, and non-governmental partners to test and implement prevention measures such as restricted access to affected caves to minimize the spread of the disease in New Mexico,” says the BLM’s Threatened and Endangered Species Program Lead, Marikay Ramsey.

The disease is not a risk to humans or pets, but human activity in caves poses a major risk of spreading the fungus among bats. State and federal agencies recommend the following to protect the bats:

  • Respect cave and mine closures
  • Decontaminate footwear and all cave gear before and after visiting or touring caves and other places where bats live
  • Do not touch bats; report dead or sick bats to local agency rangers or wildlife biologists
  • Gear and clothing used in positively-tested areas should not be used in negatively-tested areas
  • To avoid accidentally transporting bats, check canopies, umbrellas, and other outdoor items for any bats that may have roosted in a nook or cranny.

To learn more about white-nose syndrome, click here.