The Secret Bataclysm: White Nose Syndrome and Extinction | Science Blogs | WIRED.
We need bats; but our bats are dying. In Spring 2006, 6.5 million Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) lived in the Eastern US, making them America’s most common wild mammal species. Later that same year, thousands of little bodies were discovered strewn outside caves near New Albany, New York. Bats were dying in catastrophic numbers.
These prolific insect-eaters had contracted a fungus which is always deadly. Originally from Europe, the fungus has spread to the US, most likely by human spelunkers.
Like other diseases imported to the “New World” from Europe, White Nose causes catastrophic mortality in indigenous populations. Unlike Eastern European bats, which tolerate the infection, North American bats do not seem to have any resistance to this fungal disease. White Nose mortality rates are 90-100 percent in American bat caves.
Although most people don’t think fondly about bats, they are a very important part of our ecosystem. Bats eat tons of insect pests every year, and some species pollinate crops.
2014 publication estimated the total biomass of insects no longer being eaten as a result of catastrophic loss of multiple bat species is 2,079 metric tons of insects per year.
What can you do to help? Here’s how, according to the article:
Stay out of caves and mines where bats are hibernating during winter.
Reduce disturbance to natural bat habitats around your home (e.g., reduce outdoor lighting, minimize tree clearing, protect streams and wetlands).
Honor cave closures. Check with your state and federal agencies or a local chapter of the National Speleological Society for the status of caves and caving in your area. Follow National WNS Decontamination Protocol to clean and disinfect clothes, footwear, and equipment used in caves or mines.
Help spread the word about the value of bats! Bats are good neighbors, not pests.
Recognize that rabies in bats is extremely rare.
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