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Monday, February 6, 2012

White Nose Syndrome and it's effects


Bats get a bad rap because of a few common misconceptions: most bats carry rabies, they are blind, and they have no benefit to humans whatsoever.  Let's clear up these  misconceptions before we go any farther.  
  • Of the 450 positive cases of rabies in PA in 2011, 34 were bats.  7.5% of the total animals who tested positive for rabies were bats; to me this indicates that very few bats actually are rabid. 
  • Bats are not blind, but they do not have very good eye sight, they rely mostly on sonar.
  • Bats are very beneficial to humans, insects like mosquito's are among their favorite foods.  This means more bats=less bug bites.  If you are someone who draws bugs to you like I am, you should love bats!  

Have you noticed bats flying around outside during the day or active in winter? Bats exhibiting strange behavior are being sited throughout the state of Pennsylvania are showing signs of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). 

Many species of bats rely on hibernation for survival in the winter months.  WNS is named for the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other body parts of affected bats.  Bats with WNS exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside in the day and clustering near the entrances of hibernacula. This mobility during the hibernation months leads to starvation in the bats.  They have energy stored up throughout the winter months to last by hibernation, but the energy expended by waking and flying about ends up being very expensive energy that the bats are not able to recoop.  They are not able to find insects, their normal source of food, so they are not able to restore the energy that they have lost by coming out of hibernation.  Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers in and around caves and mines. WNS has killed more than 1 million bats in the Northeast and Canada. In some hibernacula, 90 to 100 percent of bats have died.  WNS is continuously wiping out bat colonies throughout the state of Pennsylvania!   There is still much data and information to learn about bat colonies and the effect of WNS. 

  • If you see bats exhibiting strange behaviour, please contact your local state wildlife agency; in SE PA you can contact: Dan Mummert, Conservation Biologist for the PA Game Commission.
  • TLC recognizes WNS and has a bat box sponsorship to continue to provide homes for bats.  Click HERE for more information.  The hope is that the more colonies that form, the less colonies that will be affected by WNS. We can also use our colonies to partner with the PA Game Commission biologists to continue to track WNS.  

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