Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Tribute to Bats

If you aren't up on the latest bat news, the hibernating bats in New York State are having a rough go of it. Last year Al Hicks, a biologist with the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC), discovered many dead bats in our state's hibernacula. Many of the bats, dead and sick, had a white fungus around their muzzles and some had the fungus elsewhere on their bodies as well. He called the occurrance White-nose Syndrome, and it as been seen again this year. Up to 95% of the bats in some caves have been found dead.

For many folks the big concern is that Indiana bats, Myotis sodalis, a federally endangered species, hibernate in some of NY's caves. NY is home to the fourth largest winter hibernaculum of Indianas. This could be problematic. But in addition to this, what concerns me is seeing 95% of the little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) dead. Admittedly, little browns (and big browns, Eptesicus fuscus) are relatively common, but if 95% of each winter population dies off, then what does this mean for the overall population?

The looming question is, of course, what is killing off the bats? No one seems to know. Yet. The fungus may be a symptom, or possibly a secondary "infection." Whatever it is, it is causing the bats to rouse prematurely from hibernation. They are going out in search of food before food is available (few insects flying around in February), and as a result, the bats are starving to death.

Spelunkers are being asked to stay out of known bat caves until answers are found.


Today, while making the rounds at work, I discovered this icicle hanging from the back roof:

To me it looks just like a bat hanging upside down from the eves. Couldn't resist capturing it "on film" and sharing it with nature and bat lovers out there in cyberspace.
I will post any further news I hear about the bats.

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