Illinois wildlife officials say a fungal disease killing millions of bats in the U.S. has turned up in Carroll, Pike and Adams counties.
White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in 11 Illinois counties since it was first found in the state two years ago. The first discoveries in Illinois were in 2013 in LaSalle, Monroe, Hardin and Pope counties. It was found in Jackson, Johnson, Saline and Union counties earlier this year.
The disease is named for the white fungus that appears on the animals' noses.
"Between 2013 and 2015, it was like a 95 percent decrease in the number of bats at this site, which in 2013 was in excess of 25,000 bats," Steve Taylor, a biologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey, said.
There were only 1,000 bats lefts at the site last winter. That kind of decrease can cause a major shift in the ecosystem. The DNR closed all caves it owns or manages, including the ones in Waterloo.
Taylor says the cave closures are to limit people possibly spreading the fungal infection to more bats.
"If you break that cave formation, it could be tens of thousands of years before it grows back,” he said.
Bats also have federal protection status, which is another reason why Taylor says it's not a good idea to disrupt the sites.
The locations where the infection was found can only be released on a county-wide scale.
White-nose syndrome was first detected in New York in 2006. It killed at least 90 percent of hibernating bats in some caves.