Bad News Bats

Arkansas is the 23rd state stricken with the deadly white-nose syndrome in cave-dwelling bats after state biologists confirmed its presence in two northern long-eared bats in January. Biologists estimate that bat deaths caused by the cold-loving fungus, first found in winter 2006 and 2007, exceed 5 million to 7 million—although exact numbers are unknown. It is suspected the disease makes the bats wake up every three days or so during hibernation to clean the fungus off, which causes the bats to burn through their fat reserves.

Why care?

Besides the fact that bats are the world’s only true flying mammal, bats serve as critical pollinators of our food. They also eat thousands of insects in a single night, and their pest-control value to the economy is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

Up until recently, the little brown bat was one of the most numerous bats. Now conservationists predict the species may be extinct in the Northeast within 10 years, given that whole maternity colonies have disappeared after suffering from white-nose syndrome.

Can I do something? 

Yes! Fungal spores may be inadvertently carried to caves by humans on clothing, boots and equipment. Bat experts say people should try to get in the habit of not setting backpacks on the ground when hiking and caving anymore. If you have a cat, keep it indoors, particularly in May and June when baby bats are born. You can also buy or build bat houses to put on your property. Added benefit: insect control! 

More Articles from Spring 2014

Howling wolf, © Joan Poor
State’s aggressive tactics undermine species’ restoration
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Ignoring the lessons learned from unsustainable clear-cutting in the 1970s and 1980s, Oregon politicians are pushing legislation that would dramatically accelerate logging in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.
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Some cat owners probably awoke this morning to a carcass on their doorstep: a bird, a mouse or maybe a mole. These “gifts” are tokens of their feline’s late-night prowling and a glimpse of the ecological havoc wreaked by the domestic cat.
Sage-grouse, © Tatiana Gettelman
In the rugged, open scrublands of east-central Montana lives the sage-grouse, a plucky bird that once thrived across the sagebrush sea. Today, however, the population is plummeting from habitat loss.
The species was once the most abundant bird in the world - but went extinct in a matter of decades. What can we learn from the plight of the passenger pigeon?
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Large carnivores—big cats, wolves, bears and more—face enormous threats from loss of prey and habitat to use of their parts in traditional medicine.
Sonoran Pronghorn,  © Mark Milburn
With an oblong face and a black nose splotch, the Sonoran pronghorn stands out against the cacti-strewn landscape of the American Southwest.
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The numbers are in and they’re disappointing, says Eva Sargent, Defenders’ Southwest director. The population expanded by only eight individuals from the 2012 year-end population of 75 wolves.

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