A disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern U.S. has reached South Carolina. (USFWS)
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
A disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern U.S. has reached South Carolina.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said Monday it found a bat that died from white-nose syndrome in February in a remote part of Table Rock Park in the northwest part of the state in Pickens County.
The disease was first found in bats six years ago in New York state. South Carolina is the 20th state to record a case. Scientists estimate up to 7 million bats have died, and the disease kills more than 90 percent of the bats it infects.
According to a news release issued by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, bats eat thousands of metric tons of insects every year, making bats a vital asset for agricultural pest control.
In fact, bats save the agricultural industry about $3 billion annually in pest control costs, but with millions of bats dying, DNR says food costs could increase if farmers spend more on artificial pest control means.
"We know that when farmers ... has to use more pesticide ... you always see the cost at the consumer end," said DNR biologist and bat expert Mary Bunch.
While there's not much in terms of preventing or curing the disease, wildlife officials say caves should be closed to the public to keep from spreading the fungus that causes the disease.