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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Scientists say several species of bats in Arkansas are declining because of a deadly disease associated with extensive mortality of bats in eastern North America.

White-nose Syndrome was first discovered in the state in 2012. It affects hibernating bats and is named for the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other parts of the bats.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman Trey Reid says bats are an important part of the state’s ecosystem. He says some data shows bats have helped the agriculture industry by saving as much as $3 billion a year in the removal of unwanted insects.

Reid says the commission is taking precautions to prevent the mammals from getting sick, including closing caves on wildlife management areas.