Thursday, March 27, 2008

New York's Bats in trouble

This is a little off topic, but, IMO of great importance. I appreciate bats flying the area at night eating insects, and, they're a species that needs our help and protection...
This, from the NYS DEC website..

Bat Die-off Prompts Investigation
Thousands of hibernating bats are dying in caves in New York State and Vermont from unknown causes, prompting an investigation by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), as well as wildlife agencies and researchers around the nation. The most obvious symptom involved in the die-off is a white fungus encircling the noses of some, but not all, of the bats. Called "white-nose syndrome," the fungus is believed to be associated with the problem, but it may not necessarily contribute to the actual cause of death. It appears that the affected bats deplete their fat reserves months before they would normally emerge from hibernation and die as a result.

Stay Away

Disease spreads easily within hibernaculums, housing thousands of bats in a small areaUntil researchers understand the cause and how it is spread, state environmental officials and caving organizations are asking people not to enter caves or mines with bats until further notice to avoid possible transfer of the disease from cave to cave. Vermont officials are making a similar request.

"What we've seen so far is unprecedented,'' said Alan Hicks, DEC's bat specialist. "Most bat researchers would agree that this is the gravest threat to bats they have ever seen. We have bat researchers, laboratories and caving groups across the country working to understand the cause of the problem and ways to contain it. Until we know more, we are asking people to stay away from known bat caves." Bat biologists across the country are evaluating strategies to monitor the presence of the disease and collect specimens for laboratory analysis. Biologists are taking precautions-using sanitary clothing and respirators when entering caves-to avoid spreading the disease.

No Safety in Numbers
Bat populations are particularly vulnerable during hibernation as they congregate in large numbers in caves-clusters of 300 per square foot in some locations-making them susceptible to disturbance or disease. The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of bats known to hibernate in New York do so in just five caves and mines. Because bats often migrate hundreds of miles to their summer range, effects on hibernating bats can have significant implications for bats throughout the Northeast.

Indiana bats, a state and federally endangered species, are perhaps the most vulnerable. Half the estimated 52,000 Indiana bats that hibernate in the state are located in just one former mine-a mine that is now infected with white-nose syndrome. Eastern pipistrelle, northern long-eared and little brown bats also are dying. Little brown bats, the most common hibernating species in the state, have sustained the largest number of deaths.

Searching for Answers
DEC has been working closely with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Northeast Cave Conservancy and the National Speleological Society, along with other researchers from universities and other government agencies. DEC will provide updates as they become available.

A little of my own thoughts on bats..

Bats are mammals. They are warm blooded, have fur, give birth to babies, and nurse their babies with milk. Only the Mother cares for the young.
Although often described as "flying mice", bats are not rodents and are more closely related to primates and humans. Bat wings are similar to a human hand, having a thumb and four fingers, as a support for the thin, leathery membrane that forms their wings.
Bats are also long lived. The oldest ever documented was found in a NY mine, where it had been banded 34 years earlier.
I plan on building some bat boxes for the area surrounding my Adirondack camp.

For information on building bat boxes, visit Bat Conservation International's website...

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