A fungus known to cause illness and death in North American bats has been detected in three northern Michigan counties.
White-nose syndrome has been found in bats in Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac counties.
"These are the first confirmed WNS cases in Michigan," said Dr. Dan O'Brien, DNR Wildlife veterinarian. "Even though we've known this disease was coming, it is a disappointing day. We will now shift gears and try to stop the spread of this serious disease."
The disease was found in five little brown bats collected during routine surveillance in February and March.
White-nose syndrome was first documented in 2006 in a cave in upstate New York. The DNR reports eleven species of bat have been infected and over 6 million bat have died.
While there is no connection between WNS and rabies, the DNR and Department of Community Health is cautioning the public to avoid handling bats because of the risk for exposure to rabies.
At this time, there are no known harmful effects to humans from WNS.
"The best thing the public can do when they find a dying or dead bat is to leave it alone and keep children, livestock and pets away from it." O'Brien said.
While the risk of WNS is not human health, the DNR said the loss of bats could be economically significant for agriculture and commercial forestry. The reduction in bat population could lead to an increase in pests that are harmful to crops and trees, the DNR said.