Wildlife experts are trying to determine what's causing hibernating bats in the Northeast to die en masse. The condition has been dubbed "white-nose syndrome," after a white fungus seen on bats' noses — but scientists aren't sure if the fungus is causing the deaths, or is just a symptom indicating the presence of some other disease.
So far, white-nose syndrome has been identified in bat caves in New York, southwest Vermont, northwest Connecticut and western Massachusetts. Tens of thousands of bats have died. Little brown bats, Indiana bats, northern long-eared, eastern pipistrelle, small-footed and other bat species have all been affected.
Some experts are likening the situation to that of the unexplained declines in honeybee populations due to "colony collapse disorder." Bat researchers are racing to explain the deaths — and keep the disease from spreading — but they're hampered by few clues and a lack of funds.
Elizabeth Buckles, assistant professor of pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University
Thomas H. Kunz, professor of biology and director of the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University