Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.
Especially around Halloween, we revel in creepy myths about deadly blood-sucking bats, mean creatures that fly into people’s hair and vampires that turn into bats. I won’t deny it is fun.
For the Florida bonneted bat, which we just proposed for Endangered Species Act protection, threats include habitat destruction and alteration, low population size, hurricanes or prolonged cold events, removal or displacement by people, and potential impacts from pesticides.
Mariana fruit bats, another Endangered Species, have been harmed by among other things alien plant species and the brown tree snake on Guam.
But none of these threats comes close to the nightmare scenario of white-nose syndrome (WNS), which is threatening to wipe bats out in the eastern United States and Canada and is spreading.
|This northern long-eared bat was caught in a mistnet and is about to be released. Photo by Scott Bergeson, Indiana State University.|
White-nose is the primary reason we recently proposed giving the Northern long-eared bat Endangered Species Act protection – populations of the northern long-eared bat in the Northeast have declined 99 percent since symptoms of white-nose syndrome were first observed in 2006-07.
The long-eared bat is far from the only bat imperiled by the disease, but it is the first species proposed for protection that cites WNS specifically.
Discovered in New York, WNS has spread rapidly north, south and west, wiping out nearly 6 million bats of many species. It has left a trail of caves and mines where bats should be hibernating empty of everything but bones. And it is still going.
Even worse: The disease, at least for now, can’t be stopped.
Like many horror stories, this one includes mysteries as well.
|• Our Northeast Region produced a great poster on white-nose syndrome and reminds us how valuable bats are.
• From our partners at USGS: Trick or Treat? The Frightening Threats to Bats
• And the Forest Service has a video on the Battle for Bats
Before this tale becomes too harrowing, here’s some good news. More than 100 agencies and organizations are working together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve North American bats, and we have come a long way in just a short time.
You too have an important role to play in the fight against white-nose, and there are many ways you can help. Here are a few:
This horror story can’t have a tragic end – bats are too important – and legions of biologists are working to save them.
As you watch your favorite Dracula movie , please remember that bats are not as hard to kill as that famous vampire. Plus, they are infinitely nicer and more helpful to humanity. And they need our help.