Connecticut Bats Could Use a Treat this Halloween

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As Halloween approaches, images of bats are everywhere. From store decorations to Caped Crusader costumes for people and even pets, bats are a focal point for the season.  Unfortunately, in recent years, bats have received far more tricks than treats.

In less than four years, white-nose syndrome (WNS) has killed thousands of Connecticut’s bats and more than a million bats throughout the Northeast.  It has spread to over a dozen states and two Canadian provinces, leaving a trail of ecological havoc in its wake.

“Halloween is good time to dispel myths about bats,” said Rick Jacobson, Director of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Wildlife Division.  “Rather than harbingers of doom, they are a key part of healthy ecosystems and provide tremendous economic benefits to agriculture and forestry through their insect control abilities.”

Here are a few interesting facts:

  • Bats are not flying mice.  They are the only mammal capable of true flight and are more closely related to primates (and people) than to rodents.
  • Bats do not get caught in people’s hair.  They are adept fliers and rely on sensitive sonar (echolocation) to navigate night skies.  Bats that swoop near people are after insects like mosquitoes.
  • Bats are not blind.  They have good eyesight, but rely on echolocation to master night flight.
  • Bats are not filthy or covered with parasites.  Clean wings are essential for executing intricate flight patterns, so bats spend great amounts of time grooming themselves.
  • Three species of bats are known as vampire bats.  They are found only in Latin America and are a parasite of birds and cattle.
  • Worldwide there are almost 1,000 kinds of bats; Connecticut has only eight native species.
“Learning more about bats and the important role they play in healthy ecosystems would be a great Halloween “treat” for this beleaguered group of animals,” said Jenny Dickson, DEEP Wildlife Division Biologist.  “Several species of bats that call Connecticut home have been devastated by white-nose syndrome.  Knowing why bats matter is an important first step in efforts to address this unprecedented mortality.”

The affected species are known as “cave bats,” and include little brown, northern long-eared, tri-colored (pipistrelle), big brown, and the Indiana bat (a federally endangered species).  Since 2007, the DEEP has been an active participant in WNS response.  Biologists continue to monitor hibernating bats for signs of WNS and document mortality.  Biologists are also tracking summer maternity colonies closely to see if WNS is having a negative impact on bat survival and the ability to give birth and raise young.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begins the process of gathering information to determine if two bats once common to Connecticut and to the Northeast, the northern long-eared bat and the small-footed bat, warrant protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, biologists and researchers in the U.S. and Canada race to complete detailed studies of the fungus associated with WNS to determine if there are safe and effective ways to treat or control the fungus, and most importantly, how to halt the spread of WNS across the U.S. and Canada.  Many of these efforts have been supported by the State Wildlife Grant program, a critical source of funding for addressing urgent wildlife disease issues.

More information on white-nose syndrome and related conservation efforts can be viewed at www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome.

As cooler weather approaches and bats settle in to hibernate, the DEEP encourages Connecticut residents to help in monitoring white-nose syndrome here at home.  Report bats found outdoors from mid-November through mid-March.  While the characteristic white fuzzy fungal growth may not be readily visible on a bat’s nose, bats seen flying during the day or clinging to the outside of a building during late fall and winter are a sign that white-nose syndrome may be at work.

Sighting details, including the date, location, what you observed, and digital photos if possible, may be submitted to the DEEP Wildlife Division at dep.batprogram@ct.gov or by calling the Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods (860-675-8130) or Hartford offices (860-424-3011).

Comments

Retired2hunt's picture

The state DOW/DNR offices

The state DOW/DNR offices must speak to each other as I just received from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife a "bat" article pretty much providing the same informtion.  Here is what Colorado has offered...

Bats are one of the iconic symbols of Halloween, but these often misunderstood mammals are not as frightening as their reputation.

It is hard to pinpoint why people are afraid of bats. One reason might be their appearance. Another might be because bats are nocturnal they have an automatic association with all that is dark and evil. Whatever the reason, Halloween is a good time to remember the important contributions bats make and to debunk the myths that have stalked the misunderstood night-flying creatures for hundreds of years.

"Bats have had bad PR, just like spiders and snakes," said Tina Jackson, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife a bat specialist. "You just say the word 'bat' and people automatically think bad things. But bats are beneficial animals. They play key roles in the world's ecosystems. People shouldn't fear these animals at all."

Okay - here is the link to the whole article so you can read it. 

http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/Profiles/Mammals/BatsofColorado/Pages/BatsOfColorado.aspx

So stay tuned to the same bat channel at the same bat time!   HHHHOOOOOAAAAAA!!!!

 

numbnutz's picture

I have always found bat to be

I have always found bat to be interesting. My wife and kids were scared of them from all of the myths spread about. A few years ago on our family camping trip in centeral Oregon we had bat everywhere one night. I was trying to explain that they are not mean blood sucking parasite infested flying rodents. They weren't having it. About that time a Ranger was walking by and over heard our conversation and pretty much repeated everything that I had said. Since that time they are very excited to see the bats flying around. We even have a bunch of bats that fly around our house during the summer months. It's kind of neat to see them all. I am glad however the blood sucking bats live in Latin America and we don't have to worry about them. Those ones I wouldn't be so happy to see. I hope officials can figure out why that diesease is killing so many bats back east and figure out a way to stop it.