State wildlife biologists are continuing to monitor Connecticut’s bat populations this winter. Bats have been dying at alarming rates over the past couple of years because of a fungal condition known as “white nose syndrome”.
Just a few months ago scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey figured out that a fungus that has been associated with bat deaths in the northeast is what’s killing the animals. The fungus can grow just about anywhere on the bat’s body, but shows up first on the nose. Hence the name white nose syndrome. State wildlife biologist Jenny Dickson says now that the cause of death is understood scientists can figure out how to treat the infection or even the habitat.
“That becomes a bit of a challenge when you’re dealing with something that hibernates through the winter. Most of the hibernation environments are different from site to site. Some are wetter than others. Some are colder than others. And you also have to deal with an animal that moves around and flies and that can make it very tricky.”
Dickson says it’s difficult to get an exact number on how many bats have died. But in one location in Connecticut, there used to be 2,300 little brown bats.
Now there are only a couple hundred. In some caves in New York all the bats have died.
"I think it’s going to take a tremendously long period of time for some of these populations to recover. This has been one of the most devastating population losses most of us in wildlife biology has seen in our careers.”
Dickson and her colleagues will monitor caves this winter. And she’s asking people to contact the Department of Environmental Protection to report any bats seen flying outside of caves in the next few months.
For WNPR, I'm Nancy Cohen.