ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) --  State wildlife officials say a bat-killing disease is
spreading in Minnesota and has now entered the Twin Cities area.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Thursday that white-nose
syndrome is affecting bats in six counties St. Louis, Becker, Dakota,
Fillmore, Goodhue and Washington. The disease is also suspected in Lake, Pine,
Ramsey and Hennepin counties.

White-nose syndrome first appeared in Minnesota in 2013. But the disease is picking up in the state.

In northern Minnesota, the bat population at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground
Mine State Park has plunged by 73 percent since 2013. DNR bat specialist Gerda
Nordquist says the mine's bat population now stands at less than 3,000 bats.

Naturalists are concerned because bats are pollinators and have a voracious
appetite for insects.