Discovery is first of fungus found in gray bats

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Federal wildlife officials have found, for the first time, a deadly fungal infection in gray bats. Two instances were documented in Tennessee.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that gray bats in Montgomery and Hawkins counties were found infected with white-nose syndrome. The infection has decimated bat colonies in 19 states and four Canadian provinces. It was first discovered in New York state in 2006.

Gray bats have a limited geographic range in limestone karst areas of the southeastern United States. They are particularly vulnerable to the fungus because they live in large colonies in relatively few caves.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the discovery is devastating.

The infected bats were discovered during winter surveillance of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Nature Conservancy.

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