For years, migratory bat populations in the Midwest have been threatened by a disease known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that infects the skin on the nose, ears, and wings of migratory bats. The fungus causes erratic behavior and causes the bats to use up their winter energy reserves prematurely, resulting in their death over the winter.
While ground zero for WNS has been Indiana, there has been considerable concern that WNS would spread to Michigan’s bat population via the migration of the Indiana brown bat. As of 2011, it appeared that Michigan’s bats were safe from WNS based on a study of 24 different known hibernation sites by the DNR.
However, in subsequent years instances of WNS have been noted in Michigan’s migratory bats. This spring, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have put Michigan’s long eared bat on the list of “threatened” species. This does not mean the long eared bat is in danger of extinction, only that it is highly possible that the long eared bat could be exposed to WNS. This is certainly not an idle threat; millions of bats nationwide have died from WNS in recent years.
The “threatened” designation will allow state officials more leeway in researching WNS and addressing its spread. The designation may also affect logging operations by restricting logging and tree thinning in summer months while bats young bats are roosting nearby.
It needs to be emphasize that WNS primarily affects migratory bats, which in Michigan means the long eared bat. The vast majority of Michigan’s long eared bats hibernate in caves in the Upper Peninsula. WNS does not affect the common Michigan brown bat (Myotis lucifugus, the “little brown bat”).
For more information on Michigan’s bats and Creature Control’s bat eviction services, please visit our super informative bat page.