Bat biologist says he's optimistic Vermont bat species will recover from white nose syndrom

Post date: Apr 3, 2014 1:54:59 AM

Bat biologist says he's optimistic Vermont bat species will recover from white nose syndrome

By WILSON RING Associated Press

March 08, 2014 - 8:55 am EST

FILE -- This October 2008 photo, provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, shows a brown bat with white nose fungus in New York. A biologist studying white nose syndrome in Vermont said Friday, March 7, 2014, that he thinks the worst of the epidemic is over, and at least one affected bat species could be taking the first steps toward recovery. The disease spread out of a New York cave and into Vermont in the mid-2000s. (AP Photo/New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ryan von Linden, File)

In Vermont, it's unclear whether the bats passing the winter in the cave, known as a hibernaculum, are those that survived exposure to white nose or whether they are uninfected bats that flew to Vermont to hibernate and could still face exposure.

White nose, which has killed up to 90 percent of some species, is caused by a fungus that prompts bats to wake from their winter hibernation and die when they fly into the frigid, insect-less winter landscape. It was detected in New York's Adirondack Mountains in 2006 and since then has been spreading across North America killing at least a million bats.

The fungus is believed to have been brought to North America from Europe, where the fungus is found, but bats are unaffected.

As part of an effort to determine whether the bats in the Aeolus cave are survivors, Darling and other biologists tagged about 450 little brown bats last fall to determine whether they leave the cave during the winter in search of food, a mark of white nose. The bats that leave the caves die because the winter landscape does not provide the insects they need to survive.

Next month, the biologists will be monitoring the cave to see how many emerge from hibernation.

"If, in fact, survivorship is high, maybe there is some genetic or behavioral trait that has enabled these bats to be resistant or resilient to the disease," Darling said.

Darling said the well-known plight of the bats has drawn support from people across Vermont.

"We've got homeowners with maternity colonies in and around their houses, and they're willing to put up with them because they know their situation," Darling said. "If they could just stop being killed by the disease itself, that would be a big step forward."

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