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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org  or by calling the Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods (860-675-8130) or Hartford offices (860-424-3011).