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Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

Posted February 17, 2010 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Bats often conjure images of vampires and rabies. Now, "white nose syndrome" is emerging as a leading killer of these flying mammals. It's largely to blame for a 90 percent population drop in bats across three states in the Northeastern U.S.

What is White Nose Syndrome?

A ring of white fungal growth on the muzzles and wings of bats, white nose syndrome (WNS) has killed over a million bats in the U.S. Little is known about what causes WNS; it may come from pneumonia, disrupted hibernation, variable winter weather, or the spraying of pesticides to combat West Nile Virus. It is not yet known how WNS spreads.

The impact is described as the largest threat to bats with some caves suffering from 90 percent mortality rates. First discovered in a cave in Schoharie County, New York in 2006, WNS has spread to over eight states.

Consequences of a Reduced Bat Population

For people who suffer from chiroptophobia, or a fear of bats, a rapidly declining bat population sounds great. Others are disheartened by the news as bats are good for the environment. Their number one job is pest patrol. It has been estimated that 2.4 million pounds of insects will go uneaten as a result of the decline in the bat population.

More insects will be left to damage crops, which could lead to an increase in pesticide use or/and an increase in grocery prices. The increase in insects can also aid in the spread of disease.

Research and Help

WNS has not gone unnoticed by wildlife societies and researchers:

Resources:

http://www.timesunion.com/ASPStories/Story.asp?storyID=879223&newsdate=2/2/2010&BCCode=MBTA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_nose_syndrome

http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html

http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/45088.html

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#1

Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/17/2010 2:10 AM

Bats are all but blind. They don't care about white noses.

On the other hand, white noise might be an issue.

Sincerely yours--Editor Crankshaft

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/17/2010 8:06 AM

Easy there, Editor Crankshaft, lest a bat fly into your belfry.

I never understood the fear of bats; they don't prey on people, they're not looking for you, they don't fly into your hair.

Took a hike this past summer to an abandoned copper mine in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area where bats are known to congregate. Was disappointed to find the mine entrance newly barricaded and a sign posted to the effect that it was for the bats' protection. I think the theory is that visitors might stir up the causative (causal?) agents and spead them to uninfected sites. Poor bats.

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#3
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Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/17/2010 11:40 AM

I actually have had bats in my belfry! Well, my attic, anyway. Even in the living room when my cat once caught one! There was this little commotion with a winged mouse...Die Fledermaus.

They would emerge just after dusk from a crack between the chimney and the attic. I once had a toy consisting of a pair of small wooden cups on the ends of 3-foot springy wires. The game was for one person to pass a little wood ball to another, which required steady hands and good coordination. I could take one of these out on my deck and wave it around; the bats would dive-bomb it to investigate, and would then fly off. There must have been about a hundred of them. They would return almost all at once just before sun-up.

My wife and I once visited Carlsbad Caverns, arriving just before about a quarter million bats headed out for their nocturnal rounds. It took about 20 minutes for them all to emerge from the cave. As for our own bats, we left them alone; as far as I know, they are still there (Prosser, WA, USA).

The danger from bats per se isn't so bad, but they can get rabies.... We had our cat checked out; no problem, but she was already immunized anyway.

That brings back a childhood memory. You can make a propeller out of sheet tin, say from a pop can, with two small holes near the center placed over two brads driven into the end of a thread spool. Wind a string around the spool, place the spool on a dowel, and pull the string to launch the propeller. If well made, it will fly up about 20 feet, and bats (inquisitive little critters) will chase it.

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#4

Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/18/2010 8:33 AM

Hopefully researchers can figure out how and why this is happening soon. We're going to need those winged guys around once all the snow finally melts!

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#5

Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/18/2010 8:37 AM

White nose is supposedly at epidemic levels for the native bats here in the Shenandoah Valley. I often watch them pass over my house as they stream out of one of the many local caves and sometimes they pause to chase insects in the neighborhood.

I suppose this coming summer is going to be difficult with an increased mosquito population.

Hooker

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#6

Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/18/2010 9:10 AM

Somebody stopping too fast?

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#7

Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/18/2010 10:32 AM

This really bites!

Bats are truly great to have around, and they do quite a number on the local insect population. We don't have caves by me, so we don't have excessive bats, but we do have our share, and I have been known to put up bat houses from time to time. If you go out at night in the summer, you see them quite often swooping around the trees and bushes catching supper. Never had a problem with them, nor a truly negative experience, but they do make a mess in the barns where they sleep the day away.

Perhaps if this does not get figured out soon, we can boost the Barn Swallow population in response? As a youngster, I was always told that those guys eat 2 to 3,000 mosquitoes per day per nestling when they have chicks in the nest and 5 to 6K per day for the adults to keep flying around catching all those blood-suckers. That amounts to a lot of insects over the summer, considering here in the Midwest they have 3 broods per year before they head south for the winter. The best part is they always come back to the same spot every year, and you can learn to move anything you don't want covered in recycled exoskeletons over a foot or so and then just sweep up the pile every week or two. It is kind of a hassle, but nothing compared to having millions more mosquitoes.

We have both bats and swallows, and with those two guys combing the skies day and night, we have very few insects. I live literally IN the woods, and there is ample water all around me. Rarely am I ever driven inside due to excessive mosquitoes. Occasionally when the conditions are perfect for a hatch, it will happen, but within a day or two, the flying predators will have them pretty well cleaned up!

I hope the bat doctors come up with a solution pretty soon, as there is plenty of room in the bug-eating kingdom for both of these great to have around friends. The more of the animals like this we can employ the less damage we have to do to the environment with chemicals!

I am far from a tree-hugger, but I do much prefer the "natural" solutions to the worlds problems over the man-made solutions. I also love trees very much - I just hate granola eating whale protecting tree huggers who think their new-found "green" ways trump historical common sense of working with nature vs. fighting progress, hunting, and animal husbandry at every turn. Our fore-fathers had this all figured out, some of us just forgot most of those lessons we learned as kids the second they sent us to college and we met our first hippie! We first have the responsibility to take care of animals like the cute little guys above, but we also have the right to employ them for our well being - eating undesirable pests.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Bat Population Threatened by White Nose Syndrome

02/19/2010 7:09 AM

Swallows are great - I actually wrote a blog entry about them over the summer. My mom's farm has a big population of them each year.

They do eat a lot of mosquitoes and other insects, but I'm sure bats are still important for areas where swallows don't live. And for getting the bugs that are out while the swallows sleep!

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