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by several “mouse-eared bat” (Myotis) ….

by several “mouse-eared bat” (Myotis) species in the western U.S. outside of New Mexico, and the largest known winter colony of the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) in the western states. The little brown bat is of particular concern as it has suffered severe declines in the eastern and central regions of North America.

Biologists have conducted annual bat surveys in Azure Cave since 1993. In a typical year, approximately 1,700 to 1,900 bats, primarily little brown bats, hibernate in the cave.

This year’s decline in Azure is consistent with WNS-associated declines in little brown bats observed in other states at similar sites.

Surveys conducted in Azure are part of annual, statewide surveillance efforts to track the spread of WNS in Montana. FWP and partners are monitoring more than 35 sites across the state for presence of the fungus and/or bats with symptoms of WNS. FWP first found the fungus in eastern Montana in 2020. Now, the fungus has been detected in eight counties in eastern Montana, and WNS has been confirmed in bats in three of them, including at Azure Cave in Phillips County.

People should not handle bats. Anyone who sees a dead or sick bat, group of bats, or finds bats in unexpected places should call a local FWP office to report the finding.

“Like other wildlife, bats may get sick or die for a variety of reasons,” said Emily Almberg, disease ecologist for Montana FWP. “We are particularly interested in investigating clusters of dead bats or bats that are found dead during the winter or early spring, as that may indicate WNS being the cause.”

People can report these discoveries to the FWP Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman at 406-577-7882, or they can contact a biologist at their local FWP office.

For more information on white-nose syndrome, visit https://www.whitenosesyndrome. org/. For more information on Montana’s bats, visit

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