Bat Populations Rebounding in New York Caves

B. McPherson

This little brown bat has white nose syndrome. Note the white dusting on its muzzle

Some bat populations hit hard by White Nose Syndrome have rebounded in their numbers in some caves. Researchers in New York have counted increased populations of little brown bats this spring.  In some caves and abandoned mine shafts the population had plummeted by 90% to 100% due to the fungal disease.

While it is too early to cheer the spring bat counts as some of the population could have been missed during earlier counts, biologists are hopeful that this signals the rebound of the bat population.

Many people do not realize that bats are an important contributor to pollination and insect control, eating thousands of insects in their nightly excursions. With the death of millions of bats in eastern Canada and south in the US as far as Alabama, insect pests were expected to escalate.

White nose syndrome is a fungal disease that appeared in bat caves about six years ago and led to the deaths of approximately six million little brown bats in the US north east. The fungus infects the closely packed, hibernating bats and shows up as a white dusting on their noses. It interrupts their winter sleep and they leave their caves to look for insects to eat. They end up starving to death before the winter is over.

This fungal disease is present in Europe and has led to the speculation that it was brought to N. America by cavers on their equipment. This may lead to tighter restrictions on cave access in order to stave off an environmental disaster from population collapse.

Ref: Metro News 


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