Battling Bat Disease

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white nose syndromeVERMONT - Imagine walking out your door into a swarm of insects. Flies, mosquitos, and more, buzzing around your body. No matter how much you swat at them, there are too many to control. This nightmare could become a reality without our friend in Vermont, the bat.

Bats nationwide are fighting a disease, the White-Syndrome. The disease is actually a white fungus that grows on bats noses, and causes them discomfort when they hibernate and sleep. This costs the animal valued calories, and wakes them up from their slumber early for food. Since they did not sleep through their full natural hibernation period, their food is not available yet, and starvation is right around the corner.


So far, White-Nose Syndrome has caused over 6 million deaths. Beginning in New York, the disease has flown over the country, and is now in 26 states in America. And since that estimation was taken, even more have fallen victim to the disease. Rob Mies, the executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, believes the number is near “10 million or more by now.”


Scott Darling from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says there are two species in the state that are affected by the disease. The Little Brown Bat and the Northern Long-Eared Bat have both fallen victim to the fungus, and scientists have been monitoring them for years, researching ways to help.


The Little Brown Bat is actually doing better in Vermont, compared to other states. Recent findings show that the bat population is stabilizing at 150,000 bats, and no longer dying off. “They are remaining stable,” Darling shares. “And at least for now, their decline has kind of ended.” There is a lot of ground to make up to get back to their original population of 600,000 bats statewide, but there is hope for the species.


The Northern Long-Eared Bat, however, is not doing quite so well. “We’ve probably lost over 90 percent of them,” Darling says. “It used to be our second most common bat, and now it’s our rarest.”


Sadly, the population is still declining. “We are doing all we can do reduce any other kinds of mortality for the bats. We are waiting to hear from research nationwide on treatments, whether it be vaccines or sprays...whatever they find.”

In the meantime, Darling encourages those who see bats in the wild to report their sightings to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, or if there are bats in their home, to use the tips on their website to learn how to eradicate them safely without causing harm to the animal.