Bats are a valuable and fascinating part of Georgia's natural heritage. They provide a beneficial service by foraging on flying insects, many of which are pests. A single bat can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in one hour. They also eat large numbers of moths and beetles that cause agricultural damage.
Georgia is home to 16 species of bats. Some of these appear to be adaptive; they opportunistically roost and forage in altered habitats such as suburban and agricultural landscapes. A few species, however, have specific habitat needs, such as caves with suitable temperature and humidity, or large, hollow bottomland trees. Populations of these species are more vulnerable to habitat alterations and are of conservation concern. Other factors impacting bat populations include pesticides and water quality that impact aquatic-based food supplies, and more lately, a mysterious disease threat known as white-nose syndrome.
First observed in a New York cave in 2006, the condition is named for the fuzzy white fungus that grows on the wings and muzzles of infected bats as they attempt to hibernate in caves. The bats become active and essentially starve before their normal awakening in the spring.
White-nose syndrome, or WNS, has since killed an estimated 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The disease was first documented in Georgia in early 2013, and officials are working with caving and other conservation groups to combat WNS.
Summer Survey Guidance
A team of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, with help from interested parties, developed new rangewide guidance for conducting summer surveys for Indiana bats.