Texas Parks and Wildlife is asking for the public's assistance in reporting bats in distress.

According to a press release from Texas Parks and Wildlife, an unexpected disease is rising in the Central Texas bat population. This disease is known as white-nose syndrome.

Note: There are currently no known human health risks from the disease.

Unfortunately for the bats, WNS can be fatal.

Researchers have determined that WNS is a fungal disease that can be spread to other bats by those infected, or by contact with contaminated surfaces. The white fungus grows on the ears, nose, and wings of hibernating bats.

“Last year, we received reports of bats dying or acting strange from around the state” said Nathan Fuller, a TPWD bat biologist. “Unfortunately, we expect the same thing to happen this winter and we are asking Texans to be on the lookout for distressed bats. Texas is a big state and we can monitor bats much more effectively with more eyes out there looking for bats.”

This disease poses a serious threat to bats that hibernate in caves. WNS has killed up to 95% of bats at individual sites. The disease causes bats to exhaust fat reserves as they hibernate, forcing them to venture from their hibernacula to forage. Unfortunately, this occurs mid-winter when conditions are extreme and bats either cannot find food or do not survive exposure to the elements.

Here in Texas, we have 32 different species of bats. If you ever been to Austin, they hold an annual bat fest where you can watch 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from Congress Avenue bridge, all while shopping at local vendor booths. Over 100,000 people visit the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin to watch as the bats take flight. Last year's bat fest was canceled due to COVID-19, but this year's festivities are set to return August 28.

You can also see bats emerge from the I-35/Loop 363 overpass in Temple on occasion.

Of course, the bats serve a bigger purpose than just attracting tourists. The bats also perfectly execute their role in nature by eating agricultural pests, which saves farmers millions of dollars. Without bats, food costs could increase dramatically. Let's work together and save those bats!

Report any large-scale bat mortalities to TPWD, especially those that occur during the winter months. If you see dead or dying bats, call a TPWD Kills and Spills Team or the 24-hour Communication Center (512-389-4848).

TPWD is asking the public to send reports of dead bats that are found to wns@tpwd.texas.gov. Those sending a report are asked to include a general location and, if possible, a photograph. Biologists say that people should not handle live bats or bat carcasses with bare hands.

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