TEXAS – Millions of bats across the nation are dying while wildlife organizations are getting funding to fight the disease responsible.
This year, for the first time, the fungus that causes White-Nose Syndrome was found in Central Texas. Experts say this is a concern for Austin's iconic bats.
Diane Odegard of the Austin Bat Refuge said losing bats could have effects worst than losing tourists.
"They can eat as much as 10 tons of insects in a single night," Odegard said. "The kind of pests that costs the agricultural industry a lot of money."
Aside from being a nightly spectacle at the South Congress Bridge, bats are crucial to farmers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing $1 million to be divided up among 39 states, including Texas, to fight White-Nose Syndrome.
Texas Parks and Wildlife said the state will receive $20,000 to hire a technician to swab local bats for the disease. While the disease is more prevalent in colder climates, it has now spread to Texas.
According to Texas Parks' recent report, the fungus that causes the disease was found in 10 counties affecting cave bats, tri-colored bats, and one Mexican free-tailed bat.
Symptoms of white-nose syndrome:
- White fungus on bat's muzzle and wings
- Erratic behavior
By the time the signs are prevalent the disease is already in its later stages.
Texas parks said they don't know when testing will be completed, but have already started looking for someone up to the task.