It's news that biologists in the region have been dreading; today the Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced that the first bat with a fatal condition has been found.
The condition, known as White Nose Syndrome is believed to be caused by a fungus called Geomyces destructans.
A little brown bat collected from its hibernating spot in White Oak Blowhole tested positive for the fungus. That same cave serves as the largest hibernating spot in Tennessee for the endangered Indiana bat.
It is not completely understood how the syndrome leads to death, but it's possible that the fungus makes the bats restless during hibernation, causing them to burn up fat reserves or lose water needed to survive the winter.
White Nose Syndrome has killed in excess of 90% of the bats in many caves and mines in the Northeast.
Caves in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will remain closed, in hopes of preventing any spreading of the fungus by people.
Violators of that prohibition face six months in jail and fines up to $5,000.