Just in time for Halloween, scientists may be one step closer to solving the mystery of a fatal illness afflicting one of the icons of the underworld—bats. In the last two years more than 100,000 bats in the northeastern United States have died from a disease known as white-nose syndrome. Identified by the namesake white, powdery substance on the bats’ muzzles, ears, and wings, this puzzling affliction emaciates and dehydrates the nocturnal animals during their hibernation period. Now scientists have isolated a fungus that could be the culprit attacking bats with vampire-like swiftness.
Texas is infested with wild hogs, as are Louisiana and Florida, and now an ever-expanding population is sweeping south to north, wreaking havoc in states like Oregon, Wisconsin and Missouri. Wild hogs are smart, athletic and elusive, which makes them an exciting prey for hunters, who truck hogs in from out of state for the chance to go at them on their own turf. But once introduced, hog numbers explode; for conservationists, farmers and pork producers the animals are a nightmare.
More and more people are going into the wild. But unlike the book by Jon Krakauer, or Sean Penn’s movie, where Christopher McCandless torches his money in the desert, these wilderness seekers are spending big bucks. Wildlife watchers generated $122.6 billion in 2006, according to a recently released U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, equivalent to the amount of money spent on spectator sports, amusement parks, arcades, bowling alleys and ski slopes combined.