...and it's not good.
North Country Public Radio had another update yesterday morning on our local bats and white-nose syndrome. Our intrepid reporter (Brian Mann) was in a cave over in Vermont that "they" are now calling the epicenter of the disease (previously the signs indicated it started somewhere around Albany). Al Hicks (NYS Wildlife Biologist who is THE go-to guy for this problem) estimated there were 5-10,000 dead bats in the cave; they said the bodies were 3-4" deep on the floor of the cave! Sick bats were fluttering out of the cave, clinging to icicles and crashing into snow banks. The disease has been found in caves in New Hampshire and West Virginia now, too. It is an epidemic and it is spreading with lightning speed!
And there's still nothing that can be done!
The fungus has been identified (a new species), but they don't know how it got here, or from where. And they don't know why/how it is killing the bats, other than the fact that the bats are starving to death.
If we all thought the bugs were bad last summer, I fear we will be in for an even greater shock this year. Not only will we be facing more mosquitoes and blackflies, but agricultural pests will be on the rise as well. Which will probably mean a greater usage of pesticides. People will finally start to appreciate just how much we benefited from having bats around.
I feel so helpless! I love bats and they are so important. I want to help, but if all the experts can't figure it out, there's nothing a lone naturalist can do but spread the word.
So, if you should find bats in your house this year, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't kill them!!! The bats that survive this plague will need all the help we can give them to survive (afterall, bats reproduce at such a slow rate it will take years for their numbers to come back...if they ever do). Contact someone to remove them for you. If it is only one bat in your living room, open a window, close the doors, turn off the lights, and leave the room - the bat will fly out on its own. Alternately, you can gently place a large can over the bat, slide a card underneath, carry the whole thing outside and release the animal with your good wishes.