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(Anya Huneke, NECN: Brandon, VT) - A serious disorder is sweeping through the bat population in our region, and scientists are baffled. They can't explain why bats are acquiring 'White Nose Syndrome', or why it's causing massive die-offs. They worry if they're not able to contain it, it will impact all of us. And so begins the uphill trek- to silver mine in Brandon, Vermont. It's the hibernaculum of roughly 200 bats. All of whom, these wildlife experts hope, are healthy. But they can't be sure. They've been tracking the spread of 'White Nose Syndrome'-- a condition that has swept through the bat population in the northeast- at a rapid pace, in a short amount of time, and with devastating results. n 2008, it spread all the way through much of Vermont, into Massachusetts, Connecticut... and now, in 2009- White Nose Syndrome has been identified in other states- NJ, PA, and likely in West Virginia as well. White Nose Syndrome didn't surface until 2007, when it appeared in bats in New York. By last year it had spread to a couple hundred thousand bats in Vermont... and now, it's believed there are more than double that number infected. On this crisp February day, a team of four suits up and prepares to head into the mine. This site was not affected by white nose last winter... But the picture across the state has changed dramatically. All the major caves and mines are now showing signs of the fungus, including Aeolus in Dorset-- New England’s largest bat cave. Ryan SmithWhite Nose Syndrome Regional Biologist "Aeolus is definitely a sad sight to see- you almost can't walk without stepping on carcasses." Perhaps most troubling to scientists: as of now, there are more questions than answers when it comes to white nose syndrome. Scott "Do you have an explanation for what caused it, or where it came from?" "We don't have an explanation at this point in time, unfortunately." What they're seeing are bats coming out of hibernation much earlier than they should, because something is causing them to burn through their fat reserves. Ryan "So they're waking up now- coming out to search for food- and clearly there's no food out here in the cold weather... so most end up freezing on the landscape or going to people's houses looking for heat." The syndrome seems to thrive in cold, humid conditions- and is not limited to one species of bat. Biologists fear for the entire population. Scott "I'm thinking we're looking at bat populations in affected caves and mines being almost completely wiped out." And Scott Darling of the Vermont fish and wildlife department says that's just the tip of the iceberg... Because this problem will reach well beyond bats. Scott "This is about the ecosystem, the functioning ecosystem- the cycle, the role bats play in controlling insects, which are major factors on the forest, agriculture, quality of life here in Vermont..." After 45 minutes inside the silver mine, the researchers emerged. It was clear from their faces- the news was not good. Joel FlewellingVT Fish and Wildlife "We did find some bats did have fungus." Which reaffirms for them- White Nose Syndrome is rampant, and continues to spread... and there's no fix in sight. Joel "There's a bunch of theories out there, but no proven ways to prevent the spread and cure the ones that are already sick." "This is unprecedented- we'll just have to wait and see." While scientists work on solutions, they are also trying to figure out why and how this is happening. And time is their biggest foe. Because bats in this region cannot survive too many more winters like this.