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Deadly bat disease found at Russell Cave

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BRIDGEPORT, AL. (Times Free Press) -- A disease that already has killed nearly 7 million bats in the eastern United States in the past five winters has hit home in one of the region's best-known cave systems.

Wildlife officials have confirmed white-nose syndrome in Russell Cave near Bridgeport, Ala., about 29 miles west of Chattanooga.

The Russell Cave complex features miles of passages, with entrances on both private land and the Russell Cave National Monument, operated by the National Park Service. Researchers have found evidence of continuous human occupation at the cave over the past 10,000 years.

Molly Matteson, a bat specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson, said the discovery of the disease in Alabama — a first this far south — is particularly troubling to biologists because Alabama hosts the country's largest wintering colony of federally endangered gray bats.

Read more on the story from our news partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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