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Bats Recover From White-Nose Syndrome

This week we heard some welcome news out of New York on the problem of white-nose syndrome (WNS). For the past 12 months, wildlife and animal control professionals were fearing the worst. WNS was raging through the brown bat population all across the north; some professionals specializing in bat removal in Michigan were fearing that WNS could potentially wipe out the state’s entire brown bat population. Fortunately, this has not been the case.

Figures released out of New York this week by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation showed notable increases in the number of little brown bats in three out of five upstate New York hibernation caves where scientists first noticed white nose decimating winter bat populations six years ago. The largest cave saw an increase from 1,496 little browns last year to 2,402 this winter. These numbers suggest that perhaps bats are learning to adapt to WNS and that the disease may not be the scourge that some were fearing.

However, it is too soon to tell. It will take several years of data collection to find out for certain; meanwhile, white nose syndrome is spreading south (it has been found in Alabama) and now seems to be moving west of the Mississippi, decimating populations of brown bats in the west. How many bats has white nose syndrome killed? Experts estimate at least 5.7 million bats since 2006. In some areas, 90% of the brown bat population have perished.

It is hoped that the numbers out of New York will be replicated elsewhere. A drastic reduction in our bat population would be devastating to agriculture, as farmers rely on bats to feed on the insects that destroy crops.

Click here to read more on bats from our Creature Control website, including the benefits of bats to the ecosystem, signs of a bat problem in the home, and how to get rid of bats.

Click here to read more on the New York report.