|Bats in the North East US Suffering Mysterious Plague
||[Feb. 20th, 2008|01:12 am]
Wildlife biologists are scrambling to understand a mysterious epidemic being called "White Nose Syndrome" that has killed tens of thousands of bats in upstate New York. Scientists are trying to prevent the sickness from spreading. As a result, most caves in New York, Vermont, and New Jersey are closed to the public.
I heard about this on NPR this morning. You can listen to the story here.
An article Here and another here.
There are several kinds of bats on the federal and state endangered species lists that are being further threatened by this, such as the Indiana bat.
Some are wondering if there is a connection between the cause of the bats' death and the collapse of honeybee colonies.
"Biologists do not yet understand what is killing the creatures -- only that they have never seen this before. The dead bats are emaciated, as though starving. A white fungus furs their noses. Autopsies show lung congestion, as though they had pneumonia.
Whatever the cause, it kills with deadly efficiency. Bat populations have plummeted more than 90 percent in the two New York caves where the syndrome was first identified last winter.
Bats consume millions of insects as they flit through the air on summer nights and play an important role in controlling pests that afflict crops and human inhabitants.
Inside Aeolus cave last week, Darling and cave enthusiast Peter Youngbaer found more dead bats and about 2,000 bats flying around or hanging from walls near the entrance, also unnatural behavior.
Usually the hibernating bats stay deep in the cave where temperatures are colder and vary little.
"They were flying out of the cave, landing on the snow, landing on us -- they shouldn't be doing that in mid-winter," Youngbaer said.
The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, petitioned the United States U.S. government Monday to take additional steps to protect endangered species of bats.