Bats are a Halloween favorite, but the creatures are facing a deadly disease

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More than six million bats have been killed by a fungal disease that first emerged a decade ago on the East Coast. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) More than six million bats have been killed by a fungal disease that first emerged a decade ago on the East Coast. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Afflicted bats have white fuzz on their muzzles and other body parts. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Afflicted bats have white fuzz on their muzzles and other body parts. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
In July, the Arizona Game and Fish Department announced it had received a federal grant to monitor the state’s bat populations for signs of the disease. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) In July, the Arizona Game and Fish Department announced it had received a federal grant to monitor the state’s bat populations for signs of the disease. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The disease isn’t harmful to humans, but it can wipe out entire bat populations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The disease isn’t harmful to humans, but it can wipe out entire bat populations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Bats are a hallmark of Halloween decorations, but in the world of science, biologists and researchers are trying to protect these creatures of the night from a deadly danger.

More than six million bats have been killed by a fungal disease that first emerged a decade ago on the East Coast, according to estimates from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

It’s called white-nose syndrome. Afflicted bats have white fuzz on their muzzles and other body parts.

The disease isn’t harmful to humans, but it can wipe out entire bat populations – creatures that keep insects under control.

“What this disease does is it keeps the bats awake during hibernation and causes them to fidget around and scratch and itch. Just that little bit of activity forces the bats to burn enough energy that they actually die of starvation during hibernation,” said Arizona Game and Fish biologist Randy Babb.

White-nose syndrome hasn’t been detected in Arizona but the disease is spreading: it’s been found in 31 states. The fungus that causes the disease, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, turned up in Texas and Nebraska this year.

In July, the Arizona Game and Fish Department announced it had received a federal grant to monitor the state’s bat populations for signs of the disease.

Last week, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced $1.3 million in research grants to find a cure for the disease.

“White-nose syndrome is the single biggest threat to many North American bat species and one of the most pressing conservation challenges facing America’s wildlife today,” Jeremy Coleman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in the announcement.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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