I’ve received a number of emails over the past few weeks asking about the state of our Loudoun bats. The most recent email was today, with the title “Where are our bats?”. We plan to do a write-up in the fall Habitat Herald on the issue but I also wanted to do a blog post now since many of us are noticing this lack of bats (or reduced numbers) and this is indeed such a grave situation.
You may have heard about the White Nose Syndrome (WNS) that was first identified about 2 years ago, up in New England. It effects bats while they are hibernating such that they wake from hibernation starving, go out in search of food, and die from the cold and lack of insects to feed on in the winter. This disease has already killed as many as 95% (yes, you read that right, 95%!) of the bats in New England and it is spreading fast. This spring, the disease was recorded in Virginia, and it continues to move through our bat populations.
Earlier this week, I received an email from Bat Conservation International, a non-profit that is spearheading the effort to raise funds for scientists to quickly study this disease and figure out a solution – before our bats become extinct. Yes, it is that serious.
I’ll paste in here an excerpt from their email:
“Millions of bats, including several endangered species, are at stake. More than a quarter of America’s 46 bat species could become endangered, and some of our currently most abundant and widespread species could face extinction. This is shaping up as the worst wildlife crisis of the past century.Unfortunately, government funding for research has thus far fallen woefully short of needs. Most of what has been spent has gone only for monitoring. There is a history of red tape delays that can take years. So far, BCI’s Emergency Response Fund has played a critical role in filling these gaps so key research can be initiated. Anything you can do to help further assist our Emergency Response Fund would be deeply appreciated.”
Locally, we have a fantastic organization called Bat World. I definitely recommend reaching out to BCI and Bat World with questions (and donations) as appropriate.
Here are a couple of links and attachments that you can check out to learn more:
– White Nose Syndrome Report
– Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries Report
– US Fish and Wildlife Service
– Science News (from Oct 2008)
If you have bats at your house or know where some reside, please be good stewards of their homes, give them privacy during the day and encourage others to be tolerant of them. This time of year they are raising their young in nurseries and in times like these when they are struggling to survive as a species, they can use any bit of compassion that they can get. Bats are amazing animals and I hope they survive into our future.