National

Oct 27, 2009 11:50 AM by Associated Press

Brown bats wiped out by fungus

Wildlife biologists studying a mysterious fungus killing off hundreds of thousands of bats around America want to find out if they can repopulate caves decimated by the disease. So they're bringing 79 healthy little brown bats to two hard-hit caves in Vermont.

Researchers suspect a fungus that thrives in cold, moist caves causes white-nose syndrome, named for the sugary smudges of fungus on the noses and wings of hibernating bats. It may have killed as many as 500,000 bats in the eastern United States over several winters.

The repopulation experiment starting Tuesday at caves in Bridgewater and Stockbridge is not aimed at curing the ailment. But it could show whether affected caves can sustain new populations of hibernating bats. The ailment was first noted in upstate New York in 2006.

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