CONCORD, N.H. — Biologist Susi von Oettingen walked into the dark World War II-era military bunker and took out her flashlight. Among the old pipes, wires and machinery parts, she saw some bats hanging from cracks in the cement walls and ceiling.
It was an unusual place for the bats to hibernate, different from a mine or cave. But something else was different, too: None of them had white-nose syndrome, a fungus that's killing bats across the country.
The group of bats found last winter in the New Hampshire bunker was small, recalled von Oettingen, an endangered species biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But two of the three species discovered there -- the northern long-eared bat and the little brown bat -- have been dying off from the disease.
Starting as early as next month, von Oettingen will be part of a group of state and federal biologists monitoring that bunker and a few others in the state. They'll study temperature and humidity levels and put up footholds for the bats, hoping to attract more and figure out if there's a way to control white-nose syndrome, first discovered near Albany, N.Y., in 2006.
"We may be able to maintain a white-nose-free site for these bats to return to," she said.