Tens of thousands of bats have died along the Northeast states, apparently from "white nose syndrome," prompting investigations from state and federal authorities. The most common characteristic in the dead bats is "a white fungus encircling the noses of some, but not all, of the bats," according to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. The NY DEC adds, "It is not clear how this fungus alone can cause bats to die, however, impacted bats deplete their fat reserves months before their normal springtime emergence from hibernation, and starve to death as a result." Bats are important because they love eating insects—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services says, "One bat can eat between 600 and 1,000 mosquitoes and other insect pests in just one hour." Now the worry is that the disease will move from the Northeast to the continent's largest bat colonies in the South and Southwest, with extinction a distinct possibility. The Star-Ledger reports that the NJ state Division of Fish and Wildlife only counted 750 bats at Rockaway Township hibernating location; a zoologist said, "We normally find between 26,000 and 29,000 bats in our counts there at the same time each year." Photo: NY DEC