Monday, August 31, 2009

Brown Bat, Brown Bat, Where Did You Go?

Brown bat hanging upside down with visible white funguns on snoutA few weeks ago, I heard an incredible NPR story about the impending extinction of the common brown bat.

In just a few years, the entire population has become threatened by a fungal disease called white nose syndrome, which interferes with their sensitive hearing and radar, as well as their wings.

Discovered near Albany, New York, in 2006, by 2008 it had spread to Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts, according to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. By 2009 it was in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Experts fear that the species will be wiped out within 10 years. No one knows exactly what the effect of that loss would be on everything else in the ecosystem, but think about this aspect as highlighted in the NPR transcript:

MANN: What that will mean to the environment is still a complete mystery. But, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that losing bats could cost farmers a billion dollars a year. People think of bats as pests, but Brock Fenton says the truth is exactly the opposite.

Dr. FENTON: So, each of these bats is eating half its body weight in insects every night. And if it's a pregnant female, or a lactating female, she's eating her own body weight in insects every night. So, that's a hell of a lot of insects.
And that's not to mention bats' important role as pollinators and distributors of seeds.

Some researchers are working on the problem, of course, but in these economic times there's not much money.

And imagine the politics of telling the bat-phobic public that you want to spend more of their tax dollars investigating why all the bats are dying.


More from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region website

List of cave closures in the Northeast


elena said...

Yikes - this is very disturbing. Thanks for the post.

Ms Sparrow said...

Disappearing honey bees and now brown bats? How many other more subtle environmental changes are going on to threaten us?

As Ed Grimley always says, "We're doomed as doomed can be!"

Heewon said...

I had no idea bats ate so many insects. Very sad. I wonder if this will be one of many signs of the end! Yikes!