Posts Tagged ‘bats’

13 Awesome Bat Facts

Happy Halloween!

We hope you are enjoying your spooky festivities. And speaking of spooky, let’s talk bats.

Bats are not nearly as scary as people think they are. The fact that they are associated with Halloween and only come out at night have made them the stuff of some people’s nightmares. Yet bats are really important.

Bats are the pollinators of over 300 different fruits. Eighty medicines come from plants that depend on bats. A single little brown bat can eat up to 1000 insects per hour!

So let’s learn a few cool facts about the world’s only flying mammal (sorry flying squirrel, but you’re actually a glider).

Called creepy, scary and spooky, bats often get a bad rap. They’re an important species that impact our daily lives in ways we might not even realize. From pollinating our favorite fruits to eating pesky insects to inspiring medical marvels, bats are heroes of the night.

Bat Week — held the last week in October — celebrates the role of bats in nature and all these amazing creatures do for us. Check out some interesting bat facts (and cool photos) below:

1. Did you know: There are over 1,300 species of bats worldwide. Bats can be found on nearly every part of the planet except in extreme deserts and polar regions. The difference in size and shape are equally impressive. Bats range in size from the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (also called the Bumblebee Bat) that weighs less than a penny — making it the world’s smallest mammal — to the flying foxes, which can have a wingspan of up to 6 feet. The U.S. and Canada are home to about 45 species of bats and additional species are found in the U.S. territories in the Pacific and Caribbean.

A small, furry bat hangs from a cave ceiling with its eyes closed.
The little brown bat lives up to its name. It weighs only a 1/4-1/3 of an ounce, is about 2 inches long and has a 6-inch wingspan. Photo by Ann Froschauer, USFWS.

 

2. Not all bats hibernate. Even though bears and bats are the two most well-known hibernators, not all bats spend their winter in caves. Some bat species like the spotted bat survive by migrating in search of food to warmer areas when it gets chilly.

A long-eared bat opens its mouth to an array of sharp teeth.
The Northern long-eared bat spends winter hibernating in caves and mines. Photo by Andrew King, USFWS.

 

3. Bats have few natural predators — disease is one of the biggest threat. Owls, hawks and snakes eat bats, but that’s nothing compared to the millions of bats dying from White-Nose Syndrome. The disease — named for a white fungus on the muzzle and wings of bats — affects hibernating bats and has been detected in 31 states and five Canadian provinces. More than 6.5 million bats have died so far from White-Nose Syndrome. Scientists are working to understand the disease. You can help — avoid places where bats are hibernating, and if you do go underground, decontaminate your clothing, footwear and gear.

A small bat clinging to a cave wall has spots of white fungus on its nose and ears.
A tri-colored bat shows symptoms of white-nose syndrome. Photo by National Park Service.

 

4. Without bats, say goodbye to bananas, avocados and mangoes. Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. Bats help spread seeds for nuts, figs and cacao — the main ingredient in chocolate. Without bats, we also wouldn’t have plants like agave or the iconic saguaro cactus.

A bat leans into a halved flower and uses its long tongue to lap up the nectar.
Just like a hummingbird, the lesser long-nosed bat can hover at flowers, using its 3-inch long tongue — equal to its body length — to feed on nectar in desert environments. Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.

 

5. Night insects have the most to fear from bats. Each night, bats can eat their body weight or more in insects, numbering in the thousands! And because bats eat so many insects — which have exoskeletons made of a shiny material called chitin — some bat poop sparkles (cool but weird fact, we know)! This insect-heavy diet helps foresters and farmers protect their crops from pests.

An orange ruler is held next to a cluster of dozens of tiny bats on a cave wall.
The endangered Indiana bat, which weighs about three pennies, consumes up to half its bulk every evening. Photo by Andrew King, USFWS.

 

6. Bats are the only flying mammal. While the flying squirrel can only glide for short distances, bats are true fliers. A bat’s wing resembles a modified human hand — imagine the skin between your fingers larger, thinner and stretched. This flexible skin membrane that extends between each long finger bone and many movable joints make bats agile fliers.

A large bat with ears twice the size of its face flies out of a cave.
California leaf-nosed bats exit a cave at Joshua Tree National Park. You can easily distinguish these bats by their leaf-like noses and large ears. Photo by Kristen Lalumiere, National Park Service.

 

7. Bats may be small, but they’re fast little creatures. How fast a bat flies depends on the species, but they can reach speeds over 100 miles per hour according to new research.

Hundreds of bats fly past the camera in a blur of movement.
Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from Texas’s Bracken Cave. Over 15 million bats live there, making it the largest known bat colony (and largest concentration of mammals) on Earth. Photo by Ann Froschauer, USFWS.

 

8. Conservation efforts are helping bat species recover. At least 13 types of U.S. bats are endangered, and more are threatened. These amazing animals face a multitude of threats including habitat loss and disease, but we’re working to change that. A unique international conservation partnership in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico has been working to help one species, the lesser long-nosed bat, recover to the point it can be removed from the Endangered Species list. In 1988, there were thought to be fewer than 1,000 bats at the 14 known roosts range wide. There are now an estimated 200,000 bats at 75 roosts!

A small brown, tan, and black bat is held comfortably in a person's hands.
The ancestors of the endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat traveled over 3,600 kilometers from the Pacific Coast almost 10,000 years ago to become Hawaii’s state land mammal. Photo by Frank Bonaccorso, USGS.

 

9. The longest-living bat is 41 years old. It’s said that the smaller the animal, the shorter its lifespan, but bats break that rule of longevity. Although most bats live less than 20 years in the wild, scientists have documented six species that life more than 30 years. In 2006, a tiny bat from Siberia set the world record at 41 years.

A head shot of an open-mouthed bat with ears about three times as large as its head.
The Townsend’s big-eared bat’s average lifespan is 16 years. Photo by Ann Froschauer, USFWS.

 

10. Like cats, bats clean themselves. Far from being dirty, bats spend a lot of time grooming themselves. Some, like the Colonial bat, even groom each other. Besides having sleek fur, cleaning also helps control parasites.

A white and black bat hangs upside-down from a cave ceiling.
The spotted bat gets its name from its distinct appearance of black and white spotted fur. Another interesting fact about the spotted bat — it has the largest ears of any North American species. Photo by Paul Cryan, USGS.

 

11. Dogs aren’t the only ones with pups. Baby bats are called pups, and a group of bats is a colony. Like other mammals, mother bats feed their pups breastmilk, not insects. While bats only give birth to one baby per year, momma bats form nursery colonies in spring in caves, dead trees and rock crevices.

A cluster of dozens of identical brown bats.
Bats benefit from maintaining a close-knit roosting group because they increase reproductive success and it is important for rearing pups. Photo by Alan Cressler, USGS.

 

12. Bats are inspiring medical marvels. About 80 medicines come from plants that rely on bats for their survival. While bats are not blind, studying how bats use echolocation has helped scientists develop navigational aids for the blind. Research on bats has also led to advances in vaccines.

A purple, blue and black bat swoops down to eat fruit from a plant, all outlined by pure darkness.
The Mexican long-tongued bat is a vital pollinator in desert systems. They have a long, bristle-like tongue, allowing them to sip nectar from agave and cacti. Photo by USFWS.

 

13. Innies or Outies? Humans aren’t the only ones with belly buttons. With a few exceptions, nearly all mammals have navels because of mom’s umbilical cord, and bats are no different. Now the real question is: Innies or outies?

A black bat with large eyes hangs upside down.
Can you spot this Mariana Fruit bat’s belly button? Photo by Julia Boland, USFWS.

 

Bats need your help. You can help protect these amazing creatures by planting a bat garden or installing a bat house. Stay out of closed caves, especially ones with bats. If you’re visiting an open cave, make sure to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome by following these guidelines.

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How Pollinators Feed the World

Pollinators are more than just bees. There is a whole variety of insects and animals that do this important job. Pollination literally feeds the world, from the plants meant for human consumption to the ones animals all over the globe depend on.

This article published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives us a refresher course in the mechanics of what pollination really is. It also gives some beautiful examples of some of the animals that make it all possible.

Original article published here.

 

Wings of Life

woodland swallowtail butterfly
A woodland swallowtail butterfly visits a buttonbush. (Photo: Rick Hanson/USFWS)

 

You may not realize it, but we owe most of our fruits, crops and flowers to animals. Yes, animals. All day long in the growing season, insects and other creatures carry pollen from flower to flower, fertilizing them in the process and helping to feed the planet.

Oh, sure, wind and water carry pollen, too. But their role is tiny, compared to the work done on the wing. Bees lead the pack as living pollen transport units. Other important pollen carriers — or pollinators — include flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds and bats.

So consider: When you help feed pollinators, you help sustain the world.

Watch a stunning video on the beauty of pollination.

a simplified look at pollination
The birds and the bees: An illustration offers a simplified look at pollination. (Credit: Kids Growing Strong)

 

Remember how it works? (It’s okay. We needed a refresher, too.) A stalk-like structure called the anther, located in the male part of a flower (called the stamen) makes pollen. For fertilization to occur, that pollen has to get to a flower’s female part, called the pistil (where seeds are made).

This is where a bee, bird, bat or other creature comes in. When the animal stops at a flower to feed on nectar or pollen, some pollen grains stick to its body. At the next flower stop, some of those grains brush off on the top of the pistil, called the stigma. Pollen grains on the stigma grow tubes down to the ovary, and fertilization begins. Mission accomplished.

Don’t worry. There’s no test. You can help feed pollinators even if you don’t remember the fine points of plant biology.  Every effort counts.

See a video on flower pollination.

A Hunt’s bumblebee collects pollen
A Hunt’s bumblebee collects pollen from rubber rabbitbrush at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. (Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS)

 

Bees are the ultimate pollinators — focused on their job and built for it, too. Other insects, while important to the process, move pollen more by chance.

“Bees are the only insects deliberately seeking pollen as a food; it’s their main source of protein,” explains Wedge Watkins, wildlife biologist at Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. “All these other animals are visiting the flower to get at its nectar. In the process of that, they stick their face or some other body part into the flower and accidentally get pollen on them.”

Bumblebees have developed an ingenious method to get pollen: They shake it loose by vibrating at just the right frequency — called buzz pollination. Some bees are specialists – able to use pollen from only one kind of flower.

Most bees also stock their nests with pollen to feed their young. “They store it in a variety of places — on their legs and on their abdomen,” says Watkins. “They carry it back to nest, mixed with nectar. They deposit it in ball shape and lay an egg on it. The egg develops into larva. The larva eats that pollen and pupates into an adult.”

Female bees do all the pollen gathering, and have hairy legs and abdomens adapted to the task. Male bees are thinner and much less hairy; their primary job is fertilizing the female and creating the next generation.

When you see bees buzzing in your wildflower garden – or around the flowers on your windowsill – it’s a sign things are going right.

A simplified graph charts the decline of honeybees
A simplified graph charts the decline of honeybees in the United States. (Chart: Scripps Howard Foundation Wire/Anna Giles)

 

For many Americans, the first warning sign that pollinators might be in trouble came from reports — beginning in 2006 or so — of losses  of honeybee colonies. Although honeybees are not native pollinators (more on this below), they face some of the same stressors as other pollinators.

These include habitat loss, disease, parasites and increased pesticide use. One group of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, arouses particular concern. These, in wide use since the mid-1990s, make whole plants — including their nectar and pollen — toxic to insects. In 2014, the National Wildlife Refuge System decided to phase out the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on refuge lands.

In response to the bee-loss reports, the U.S. Agriculture Department began conducting annual surveys of honeybee colony health in 2009. USDA surveys showed that the number of managed U.S. honeybee colonies dropped from 5 million in 1945 to 2.5 million in 2014.

For people more focused on the health of native bees, the picture is less simple. “We have little or no population data on the 20,000 species of native bees in the world,” says Watkins. This includes the 4,000 or so species in the United States.

Lamar Gore
A monarch butterfly feeds on showy milkweed at Seedskadee Refuge. (Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS)

 

The monarch butterfly, beloved by many, has become a symbol of pollinators in trouble.

For decades, hundreds of millions of the familiar orange-and-black butterflies flooded the continental United States and southern Canada each spring and summer upon their return from Mexico. Their population has dropped by as much as 80 percent in recent years. That decline has coincided with the widespread loss of their host plant (milkweed) and nectar sources (wildflowers) and the increased use of neonicotinoids tied to agriculture and development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with schools, communities and partners across the nation to plant more native milkweed and other nectar sources.

In August 2014, the Service received a petition to list the monarch under Endangered Species Act. The Service is expected to make a recommendation on the request by June 2019.

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help.

One good first step: Plant some wildflowers. Even a pot of coneflowers can help.

“Making a space for wildflowers at any level is helpful to pollinators,” says Watkins. That holds true, he says, “whether you have a farm, a garden or you’re in an apartment in the city and setting out a pot of black-eyed Susans on your balcony or windowsill.”

While monarch caterpillars rely solely on milkweed for food, the adult butterflies feed on many different kinds of flowers. Ensure a continued nectar supply by planting a variety of flowering plants. Include plants that flower at different times of the growing season. Find out which plants are right for your part of the country here or here.

Brian Lubinski
A rufous hummingbird feeds at a flower at Seedskadee Refuge. (Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS)

 

Birds can be pollinators, too. In the continental United States, hummingbirds are especially important pollinators of wildflowers.

Hummingbirds seek out nectar-producing plants by color, not by smell. They’re attracted to the colors red, yellow and orange.

Perennial plants that attract hummingbirds include bee balms, columbines, trumpet creeper, daylilies, cardinal flower, sages and lupines.

Ricardo Colon-Merced
The lesser long-nosed bat is an important pollinator of cacti in the American Southwest. (Photo: Courtesy of Bat Conservation International/Bruce D. Taubert)

 

Surprised? Don’t be. Bats are important pollinators, too. “More than 520 flowering plants depend on bats as pollinators,” says Micaela Jemison, communications director for Bat Conservation International, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the world’s 1,300-plus bat species. “Many species of bats have elongated snouts and long tongues specially adapted to eating and dispersing pollen.”

In the desert Southwest, the agave plant relies mainly on long-nosed bats to pollinate its flowers. The tequila industry relies on the bats, too; without agave reproduction, there would be no tequila.

Read more about bats as pollinators here.

Read about some of the other animals that can be pollinators, too.

Lisa Hupp
A bee seeks out pollen from a coneflower. (Photo: Jamie Weliver/USFWS)

 

Honeybees are not native to North America. European settlers brought hives with them for honey production in the 1600s.  Today, commercial honeybees play an important role in the production of many important crops.

But many see honeybee decline as a danger sign for native bees and other pollinators.

“The reality is that because honeybees are an agricultural commodity, they have political horsepower,” says Watkins. “Without the attention being paid to honeybees, we probably wouldn’t have attention being paid to native bees.”

Reggie Forcine
The rusty-patched bumblebee, once common across much of the continental United States, received federal protection in March as an endangered species. (Photo: Dan Mullen/Flickr Creative Commons)

 

In March, Bombus affinis, aka the rusty-patched bumblebee, earned a dubious honor. It became the first bumblebee species to be listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Once abundant across 28 states, the rusty-patched bumblebee has declined dramatically since the late 1990s. Now, only a few small, scattered populations remain in nine states and one Canadian province.

Placing the bee under federal protection, says Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius, “will help us mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline” and save the bee from extinction.

LouAnn Speulda-Drews
Members of Girl Scout troops 5912 and 6149 display soil-covered hands after starting 80 native plants at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The 2015 planting was meant to help monarch butterflies and other native pollinators. (Photo: Lisa Cox/USFWS)

 

Restoring native habitat – including milkweed and wildflowers – comes naturally to national wildlife refuges. Refuge staff involve school groups and Scout troops in planting efforts. While kids get their hands dirty, they learn how they’re helping pollinators and why that matters.

Here are some Refuge System properties with pollinator gardens that you can visit.

Contact your local refuge to find out how your group can take part in a pollinator planting effort. Scroll down this page to see listing by refuge name or zip code.

LouAnn Speulda-Drews
In Philadelphia, Terry Williams from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum helps community activist Regina Young create a raised bed for a new neighborhood pollinator garden. Williams is the refuge’s Student Conservation Association community crew leader. Young is executive director of Empowered Community Development Corporation, a neighborhood nonprofit. (Photo: Lamar Gore/USFWS)

 

Many refuges also help local communities build pollinator gardens closer to home.

Working together with neighborhood partners, urban refuges in cities such as Philadelphia and Houston are using such projects as bridges to area residents who are eager for more connections to nature.

Want to help your community create a pollinator garden? Here’s how to get started.

campers conduct a water-quality sampling test
A student at Mountain Heritage High School in western North Carolina helps plant a pollinator garden behind her school, with support from the Service and several partners. (Photo: Gary Peeples/USFWS)

 

Many schools across the country are joining “Save the Monarch” efforts by creating pollinator gardens in their schoolyards. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers help and guidance to some of these school efforts.

Save Our Monarchs, a Service partner, offers free milkweed and pollinator seed packets to all schools that sign up for its pollinator garden program.

 

Some resources on pollination:
Monarch Watch
Monarch Joint Venture
Xerces Society
Pollinator Partnership
Journey North
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Michigan Mammals

If we asked you to name a Michigan animal, what comes to your mind first? Some of you might say a bird, some a reptile, maybe there are those of you who would choose an insect like a butterfly. However, we’re betting that for many out there the first animal you thought of was a mammal.

And why not? Many mammals are eye-catching and even cute. There’s a reason they grace posters everywhere. Michigan even gave them a whole week of recognition this year. And while Michigan Mammals Week is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean we’ll forget them any time soon.

Check out the blog post below from the Michigan Nature Association to get a look at some of our furry friends of the Great Lakes.

The Michigan Nature Association is recognizing 2017’s Michigan Mammals Week July 10-16 and wishes to highlight some of our favorite species living in the Great Lakes State. Take a quick inventory and marvel at Michigan’s various mammals, from bats to bears! Summer is a great time to plan outdoor adventures in the state of Michigan […]

via Mammals in the Great Lakes State — Michigan Nature Association

What’s To Fear About Bats?

Bats are kind of the hallmark of Halloween. They tend to creep many people out because they fly around at night when humans can’t see well. And let’s face it, many of them look kind of weird and scary, but bats are very important to both the environment and to people.

The types of bats we have in the northern U.S. are insect eaters. A single bat can eat its weight in insects each night. And by eating all those insects, they keep the insects from eating farmer’s crops. This saves U.S. farmers billions of dollars a year. In other areas of the country other bats pollinate plants like cacti and in other parts of the world fruit bats pollinate trees and spread fruit seeds. There are 1,300 species of bats worldwide and only 3 out of those 1,300 feed on blood. Yes, vampire bats do exist, but they don’t turn into vampires that stalk the night and usually don’t feed on people. Most of the time they are content to feed on animals, inflicting only small wounds to drink around 1 ounce of blood per night (or 2 tablespoons). And unless you are in certain Central or South American countries, you will never run across one.

There are lots of neat and positive things about bats, but bats are also in trouble. Disease and habitat loss are causing their numbers to go down globally. In the United States, millions of bats have died due to the introduction of white-nose syndrome. Yet there are things we can do to help; simple things that you can even do in your own backyard.

Watch this short video to learn more about this flying mammal (by the way, it’s the only mammal that truly can fly). They’re not nearly as scary as they seem.

bat video

Long-Eared Bat Added to Endangered Species List

Michigan DNR applauds USFWS northern long-eared bat decision

 
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Press Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2015

Contact: Dan Kennedy, Michigan DNR endangered species coordinator, 517-284-6194
or Ed Golder, Michigan DNR public information officer, 517-284-5815

Michigan DNR applauds U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s northern long-eared bat decision

northern long-eared batToday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it is listing the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species with an interim 4(d) rule under the Endangered Species Act. The interim 4(d) rule provides maximum benefit to the species while also providing reasonable limits to regulations.

“Michigan and other states worked collaboratively to provide critical information as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evaluated the status of the northern long-eared bat,” said Keith Creagh, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) director.

“The decision to list the bat as threatened with an interim 4(d) rule represents a biologically sound determination that will address the conservation needs of these bats in the specific areas of Michigan where they are found, while providing flexibility for those who live and work within the bats’ range,” Creagh added. “Looking ahead, we expect to continue working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as we focus on finding the right solutions to this conservation challenge.”

The Michigan DNR and other Midwestern state natural resource agencies support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s interim 4(d) rule because it allows states to conserve and protect the northern long-eared bat while continuing normal forest management activities and routine right-of-way maintenance. The decision should reduce the potential economic impact of the northern long-eared bat listing to the forestry and transportation industry.

Populations of northern long-eared bats have drastically declined due to white-nose syndrome, which has killed an estimated 5.5 million bats in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Canada. The fungus that causes this disease thrives in low temperatures and high humidity – conditions commonly found in caves and mines where northern long-eared bats hibernate. In Michigan, white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in eight counties: Alpena, Dickinson, Keweenaw, Mackinac, Marquette, Ontonagon, Clare and Manistee.

In Michigan, the interim 4(d) rule allows certain activities that are considered a conservation benefit to northern long-eared bats as long as these activities:

  • Occur more than .25 miles from a known, northern long-eared bat occupied hibernacula.
  • Avoid cutting or destroying known, northern long-eared bat occupied maternity roost trees during the pup-rearing season (June 1-July 31).
  • Avoid clearcuts within .25 miles of known, northern long-eared bat occupied maternity roost trees during the pup-rearing season (June 1-July 31).

These conservation measures are designed to protect bats when they are most vulnerable, including when they occupy hibernacula and during the two-month pup-rearing season from June through July. The greatest potential restrictions would be during these months, with reduced restrictions at all other times.

Activities that are allowed when the above listed measures are followed include:

  • Forest management.
  • Maintenance and expansion of existing rights-of-way and transmission corridors.
  • Prairie management.
  • Minimal tree removal projects.
  • Removal of hazardous trees for protection of life and property.
  • Removal of northern long-eared bats from human structures.
  • Research-related activities.

Over the past 18 months, the Michigan DNR has provided leadership on this issue by:

  • Nationally, working with regional forestry and wildlife state agency associations to develop reasonable and appropriate conservation measures that benefit the northern long-eared bat and allow for sustainable natural resource management in Michigan.
  • Regionally, assisting the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters with developing and submitting scientifically sound recommendations to the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service on the proposed northern long-eared bat listing.
  • Leading the effort (sponsored by the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies) to convene a three-day, state-led northern long-eared bat conference that helped state natural resource agencies discuss scientifically based recommendations for the USFWS on the northern long-eared bat final listing decision.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the public comment period April 2, 2015, to continue evaluating the interim 4(d) rule. A final decision on the interim 4(d) rule is expected by December 2015.

To learn more about the northern long-eared bat and the final listing determination, visit the USFWS website http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/mammals/nlba/.

To learn more about the history and background of white-nose syndrome in Michigan, visit the DNR website www.michigan.gov/wns.


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

There May Be a Silver Lining for North American Bats

If you have read any of the stories about bats and white-nose syndrome the last few years it has all been rather depressing. It seemed like the disease kept spreading, wiping out bat populations by the millions. There has even been talk of putting a couple of species on the Endangered Species List because of it.

But amidst all the gloom and doom there seems to be a ray of hope. Bat populations in previously infected areas seem to be rebounding…slightly, but still it’s an improvement. These are areas where researchers feared bats would be wiped out completely, never to return, and yet they still persist. Scientists are also getting closer and closer to discovering the causes that cause the fungus to kill bats in the first place.

So all may not be lost for our beloved North American bats. Keep the faith.

 

Good News For Bats! Things Are Looking Up For Stemming Disease Spread

January 13, 2015 3:33 AM ET

This October 2008 photo, provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, shows a brown bat with its nose crusted in fungus.

This October 2008 photo, provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, shows a brown bat with its nose crusted in fungus. Ryan von Linden/AP hide caption

  

The bat disease known as white-nose syndrome has been spreading fast, killing millions of animals. But for the first time, scientists are seeing hopeful signs that some bat colonies are recovering and new breakthroughs could help researchers develop better strategies for helping bats survive.

Back in 2009, it seemed dire. In Vermont, the floor of the Aeolus Cave in the Green Mountains was carpeted with tiny bat bodies and their delicate bones. Scientists like Scott Darling with Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department were shaken by the carnage.

“This is just far more than I expected. It’s way more, so many more dead bats here,” Darling said then.

The first case of white-nose syndrome was found in Schoharie, N.Y. This map shows the cases detected since then. To enlarge, click here.

The first case of white-nose syndrome was found in Schoharie, N.Y. This map shows the cases detected since then. To enlarge, click here. Lindsey Heffernan/PA Game Commission hide caption

 

Scientists say a quarter-million animals have died here since white-nose syndrome was first identified in 2007, many of their tiny faces crusted with the white fungus that gives this disease its name. But on a recent trip to the cave, bats are still living here, though the population is much smaller.

Jonathan Reichard, national assistant coordinator for white-nose syndrome for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was part of a team that recently caught and inspected bats at Aeolus Cave.

“It’s a little bit of a curveball to be here today, six years after being here and seeing all the dead bats, to think that there are still bats in there,” Reichard says.

He feared that this disease might exterminate the animals, sweeping them from large parts of North America. “The declines in that species have slowed down or even reversed in some cases. There’s evidence that colonies may even be increasing at a slight tick,” Reichard says.

There’s other good news. While researchers study the tough little holdouts here in Vermont, a wildlife veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin has been cracking the code on how exactly white-nose syndrome kills these animals. The study’s lead author, Michelle Verant, says the fungus causes bats’ bodies to overheat, burning energy too quickly.

“The amount of fat energy that bats affected with white-nose syndrome used was twice as much as the healthy bats,” she says.

Verant says hibernating bats begin to starve. Some flee into the deadly cold searching for more food.

She thinks her work, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, could help point the way toward helping more bats survive. Scientists are scrambling to develop targeted fungicides that might kill white nose outright. In the meantime, Verant says wildlife managers need to make sure bats are healthy and plump before they go into the caves for the winter.

“The best thing that we can do right now is supporting bats with good habitat and reducing those additional stressors,” she says.

As this disease spreads west, Verant’s findings will play a big part in the debate over the federal government’s response. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now deciding whether one type of bat called the northern long-eared should be added to the endangered species list. Last month, Canada’s government did just that, adding three types of bats to its list of endangered animals.

Batman Movie Crew Speaks for the Real Bats

When environmental issues get Hollywood’s attention it can be to the benefit of all involved. Let’s face it, having notoriety gets you greater attention and reaches more people, people who might otherwise not pay attention to the issue at all.

The cast and crew of the new Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie have done just that for the namesake of one of their lead characters: the bat.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was filmed right here in Michigan. During their stay director Zach Snyder heard a NPR story about the devastation white-nose syndrome is causing in North America’s bat population, including in his home state of Wisconsin. Working with the Organization for Bat Conservation (which is based at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills) right down the street from the film set, he and his crew formed a plan to help spread the word.

The cast and crew created a PSA highlighting the importance of bats to our ecosystem and what we can do to help them. They even repurposed parts of their film set to make bat boxes.

And all of this has been perfect timing since the last week of October is National Bat Week. Learn more about bats and how you can help by visiting www.savebats.org.

The whole news story can be found here (USA Today: Affleck Video Supports Bat Conservation).

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The video can be seen in a link in the article or on YouTube.