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Holy fungus, Batman! Minn. gets fed money for white-nose syndrome

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Minnesota and other midwestern sates have been given federal money to monitor a disease called white-nose syndrome that is wiping out bat populations across the nation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is giving money to Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio reports. Cases have been found in Illinois and Iowa, and is feared to be headed here.

"Most scientists feel the spread north into the Great Lakes states, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and into the plains of Canada," one national researcher tells MPR. "It's not a question of if, it's a question of when."

Warning: This is gonna get a little gross.

Not much is understood about the fungus, but it's a distinctive fungal growth around the muzzles, ears and on the wings of hibernating bats. It was first discovered in a cave in New York in 2006.

Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 22 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some estimates put the number at 6 million.

It has mostly ravaged bat populations on the east coast, but is spreading west quite quickly.

Hey, we need you, bats! A single bat can eat up to 600 insects an hour.

"Are we going to see repercussions in insect populations and forest crop damage or agricultural crop damage?" the researcher says to MPR. "We're kind of living a natural experiment right now."

Here's a map that tracks the disease:

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