Late in the winter of 2006, a photographer in a cave in upstate New York noticed an odd white fuzz on the noses of hibernating bats. Several were dead. The disease had not been described before.
Four years later, White Nose Syndrome has been found in caves from New Hampshire to Oklahoma. Spreading with shocking speed and virulence, it's already killed more than one million bats in the eastern United States. Scientists say the die-off is unprecedented in recorded North American history. In catastrophic terms, it's a bit like the collapse of Plains Bison or Passenger Pigeon -- except it's bigger, faster and happening right now.
However, for all that bats are threatened, few people know that White Nose Syndrome exists. Unless that changes, there will be no hope of stopping it.
With my Spot.us funding, I intend to provide the comprehensive treatment that this epidemic deserves, and hasn't yet received in the mainstream press.
My story will span the disease's leading edge in the farmlands of southern Oklahoma, where scientists have tried to calculate the economic value of pest-eating bats; Appalachian caves at the heart of the epidemic, with ecologies that depend on bat-delivered nutrients; and the halls of Congress, where the desperate pleas have secured only a pittance of federal support, leaving wildlife managers almost defenseless and stifling urgently-needed research.
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