Deadly fungal disease for bats found in South Carolina

Something is killing off a wild animal species that most of us don't like very much. The disease is a fungus that's deadly to bats and it's recently been discovered in South Carolina.

While bats may be kind of creepy, they're useful, too.

Just ask Russell Cavender, also known as the Snake Chaser. He's a specialist in getting rid of nuisance animals around the Grand Strand and lately, he's had to put up a lot of bat exclusion nets in places like a condo complex near Surfside Beach.

The nets allow bats to get out of a building, but stop them from coming back in.

He's been told by state Department of Natural Resources officials to be watchful for something called White Nose Syndrome in the bats he sees.

"They send us a flyer at least once or twice a year to look out for it. If we see a bat, they want to be informed of the bat," Cavender said.

White Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that affects hibernating bats. It was first spotted in upstate New York in 2006, and since then, it has spread to 21 states.

DNR wildlife biologists say it's very deadly to bats.

"In the Northeast, some of their sites have decreased like 98 to 100 percent for some of their species. It is very damaging," said biologist Mary Bunch.

Those who live in complexes like the one where Cavender placed his exclusion nets might be glad to see the bats dying off, but he says that's the wrong way to think. Bats are valuable to the environment.

"They eat anywhere from one to five times their own weight in insects every single night. That's a lot of mosquitoes," Cavender said.

The diseased bat found in South Carolina was in a cave at Table Rock State Park in Pickens County, far from Horry County.

In fact, Cavender believes more bats may be migrating to our area to escape the disease and in the end, that's a good thing for us.

"Beetles, moths, you name it. Anything that flies and is a bug, they'll eat."

But the wildlife biologists point out it's too early to tell where the disease may show up.