A researcher from a federal laboratory in Madison is experimenting with using ultraviolet light to control a fungal disease that has killed millions of cave-dwelling bats in the United States.
Daniel Lindner, a research plant pathologist with the U.S. Forest Service, has received almost $156,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund his white-nose syndrome research, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The disease infects the face, wings and ears of a bat during hibernation, which disrupts them. The animals then dehydrate and starve.
Lindner hopes to use small doses of ultraviolet light to kill the white fungus.
Crews will collect 45 brown bats in northwestern Wisconsin and send them to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania in early December. The bats will be treated with quick bursts of UV light and then monitored during hibernation.
Researchers hope that applying UV light in the correct dose will increase bats’ survival, Lindner said.
There is currently no cure for the disease, which is typically fatal for bats. The disease doesn’t harm humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.
The number of infected bats in Wisconsin is sharply increasing, said Paul White, a mammal ecologist who manages the state Department of Natural Resources’ bat program. Grant County’s bat population has plummeted to just 16 during the 2016-17 hibernation season, compared to about 1,200 bats before the disease was discovered, he said.
White-nose syndrome was first discovered in New York in 2006. It’s since killed more than 6 million bats in more than 30 states and five Canadian provinces.
Bats can be important for ecological and economic reasons. They consume many mosquitoes, which reduces the use of pesticides. Some species are also pollinators.