Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bat Update - White Nose Syndrome puts populations at risk

The other day I introduced you to Bats as Urban Wildlife and earlier this year I let you know that Bats are in trouble.

Thousands of bats have been found dead or near death with a white powder on their faces. The white organism found on the critters' noses is a type of geomyces fungus, one of a group of organisms that live in soil, water and air and reproduce at refrigerator temperatures of 39 degrees Fahrenheit (four degrees Celsius), the temp in most bat caves. But researchers are in the dark about the source of geomyces. They don't know if its spores were carried to the bat caves by animals or the wind or if it was in these caves all along and recently spread to spots where the bats hibernate.

Specifically, bat populations throughout northeastern New York State, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont had thinned by as much as 97 percent in area bat caves and emaciated survivors were found hanging near cave entrances where it is typically too cold for them to stay the entire winter. Scientists have since linked the deaths of more than 100,000 of the smaller species of brown bats, northern bats, tricolored bats, Indiana bats and small-footed Myotis, along with larger brown bats in the U.S. Northeast to a condition they dubbed "white-nose syndrome." See the bats in the picture have white dust on their faces.

Photo from Bat Conservation International - Science Strategy Meeting Final Report.

No doubt, I am worried about little blurry bat I encountered in upstate New York. I didn't have the time or tools to properly identify its species but my guess was that he was a Big Brown Bat or Indiana Bat, one of the many species affected.

It is also unclear if the fungus is causing the death of the bats or contributing to their death. But we have problem on our hands and Conservation Biologists and Bat Biologists are all deeply concerned. Bat Conservation International, Two Universities, and other State and Federal Agencies convened an emergency meeting to discuss and counter this potential bio-epidemic.or

So far, the problem is only in the Northeast United States and everyone is hoping it does not spread. In the meantime, we also hope that bat populations in those areas will be able to recover from the loss of so many individuals. Remember what I told you the other day, adults mate prior to hibernation and have babies in the spring. With so many adult dying now, there will be fewer babies next year.

For more information about Bats and White Nose syndrome, check out the full Scientific American Article: What's Causing Bats to Drop Like Flies? and the Full Final Report on WNS from Bat Conservation International.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oh no. That's terrible news. Thank you for sharing and keeping us updated.

Bats are so ecologically important, and they need our support. They're historically maligned animals because they're not traditionally cute. (I, however, think otherwise...)

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