Halloween may be one of the few times people think about bats in Alaska, but the little creatures live here, too. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking for help protecting them against a deadly disease.

White nose syndrome, named for the discoloration the condition causes around a bat's muzzle, is spreading across Canada and parts of the U.S., with cases already reported in Washington state. While not contagious to humans, the disease easy for bats to contract.

"It's a cold-loving fungus and lives in mines and caves that are cold and wet," wildlife biologist Marian Snively said. "This is the same place where cave dwelling bats like to hibernate, so it gets on their fur and they spread it."

Not only do bats live in Alaska, they're actually an important part of the ecosystem, according to Fish and Game. A single bat can eat thousands of insects in a night, including pests like mosquitoes.

While there are no confirmed cases of white nose syndrome in Alaska, Fish and Game says it hasn't been able to devote resources to possible prevention because of budget cuts. Snively said this is a time of year when Alaskans are more likely to see bats, as the animals begin to hibernate in the fall. If you spot one, Fish and Game wants know about it. 

"They go usually to maternity colonies. So we can monitor these colonies," Snively said. "If we get bats coming early, they may have white nose syndrome and we can swab the area and see if it's here."

If you've seen a bat recently, you can call Fish and Game at 907-267-2893 or contact Snively by email at marian.snively@alaska.gov.

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