Posted at: 08/09/2013 1:41 PM
Updated at: 08/09/2013 10:38 PM
The Minnesota DNR says a fungus dangerous to bats has been confirmed at Soudan Underground Mine State Park for the first time.
Only a small proportion of bats tested positive for white-nose syndrome, but the DNR said the discovery has serious implications because the disease has moved quickly in other states. It has decimated bat populations in the eastern U.S. and Canada.
White-nose syndrome is mostly fatal to hibernating bats but poses no known threat to humans, pets, or other wildlife. The disease is mostly spread from bat to bat, but fungal spores can be accidentally spread by humans.
The DNR said Soudan Mine visitors will be told about the risk of spreading spores and will be required to walk across special mats designed to remove spores after tours. Visitors will be asked not to wear the same clothing or use the same gear in other caves.
Soudan Mine has about 10,000 to 15,000 bats. The DNR said there are seven species of bats in Minnesota, four of which hibernate in the winter and are at the greatest risk of contracting the disease.
The disease was also found at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in southern Minnesota, which has about 2,300 bats.