In the race to understand white nose syndrome, the mysterious illness that has killed more than a million bats, including in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, a Nature Conservancy cave expert believes a better bat cave may help.
Cory Holliday, of the Conservancy's Tennessee chapter, wants to build an artificial bat cave for the flying mammals to hibernate in to allow researchers to test out potential remedies in a controlled setting. The idea is in the running for a $250,000 grant from Pepsi Refresh, an online competition that invites people to vote for the best ideas for improving the world.
The disease was discovered in 2006 in New York before quickly spreading, killing more than 90 percent of bats in some caves. It is now found in 12 states and two Canadian provinces.
The syndrome is named for a fungus that paints affected bats' noses and other body parts white. Bats suffering from white nose syndrome wake during hibernation, expending precious body fat they need to make it through the winter. Some leave caves to search for food on the barren winter landscape before dying.
While some antifungal substances show promise as WNS treatments, transporting sick bats to a lab is difficult, and treating bats in a natural setting poses risk to other cave dwelling species and local water supplies, according to The Nature Conservancy.
“Our idea has been endorsed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our state wildlife agency and bat experts as having real potential to make a difference in this epidemic,” said Holliday.
To vote on the idea through Nov. 30 go here. Or text your vote directly by sending the message “104201” to Pepsi at 773774. An individual can vote once each day through November 30.
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