WUOMFM

bats

Amanda Bevan in front of a crowd of people
Courtesy of Renee Voit-Porath

 


Bats have a PR problem. They’re so associated with blood sucking and horror films, a lot of people want nothing to do with them.

That makes it hard to get people to care when they're in trouble, said Amanda Bevan, head of the Urban Bat Project and education specialist at the Organization for Bat Conservation.

That's a problem because right now, bats are in some pretty serious trouble. In the past decade, a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome has killed 80 percent of the bats in the northeastern United States.  

Paul Cryan / USGS

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 31 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But clusters of bats that warm up together during hibernation might have an edge against the fungus. Researchers discovered this by putting temperature-sensing surveillance cameras in caves.

More than 200 bats move into downtown Pontiac

Jul 1, 2017
brown bat with white nose syndrome
Ryan Von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

No, this isn't the beginning of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

The bats belong to the Organization for Bat Conservation's new education center, known as the Bat Zone, which opens this weekend

Executive Director Rob Mies says the move to Pontiac from their former space at the Cranbrook Institute of Science means there will be more space for animals and visitors. The bats the organization takes care of are all orphaned or injured — and many hail from much warmer locales — so they won't be flying over downtown Pontiac.

But the new building will also be the center of a nationwide research project on the lives of urban bats.

Kate Langwig and her team have found evidence that some bats may be developing resistance to the deadly disease.
Jennifer Redel

There’s some hopeful news about a disease that’s killing bats.

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 29 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But there might be a glimmer of hope. Researchers have found some bats in the U.S. appear to have developed resistance to the disease.

bat with white nose syndrome
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It's hard out here for a bat.

Especially if it's a bat in Michigan, according to Detroit News reporter Charles E. RamirezHe writes that the three biggest threats to bat populations are: "disease-causing fungus, wind turbines and loss of habitat."

Flickr user USFWSmidwest / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

White-nose syndrome is a deadly disease caused by a fungus. It’s killing bats in 27 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces.

It was first discovered in North America around a decade ago. Researchers think it came over from Europe, possibly on the shoes of a tourist or caver.

Kate Langwig and her team have found evidence that some bats may be developing resistance to the deadly disease.
Jennifer Redel

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 27 states and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

Five of Michigan’s nine bat species can get the disease. The bats that hibernate underground are the ones at risk. And the northern long-eared bat is getting hit especially hard.

Researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz are studying bats in China that appear to be resistant to the fungus. 

By Jim Conrad [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has put the northern long-eared bat on the “threatened” species list. The agency stopped short of saying the species is in danger of being wiped out by white-nose bat syndrome. The fungus has already killed millions of bats across the country.

Allen Kurta / Eastern Michigan University

  

The northern long-eared bat is a little thing with brown fur.  And its ears are longer than average, for a bat.

In winter, it hangs out in mines and caves in the Upper Peninsula.

wikipedia

A Michigan Congressman is cautioning a federal agency to be careful how it goes about creating rules to protect a certain type of bat.

Congressman Dan Benishek (R), who represents Northern Michigan’s first district, is concerned the US Fish and Wildlife Service could name the northern long-eared bat a threatened species—and that could place an “undue economic burden” on affected areas.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

State wildlife officials are concerned a large bat die-off in Keweenaw County this month might be a sign of things to come.

The small brown bats died from white-nose syndrome. The distinctive white nose is created by a fungal growth that typically kills most of the bats hibernating in an infected cave.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / U.S. government

Things are not looking good for Michigan’s bats.

As Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported earlier this week, bats infected with the deadly white-nose syndrome have been found in Michigan.

The disease, which has killed more than six million bats in North America since 2006, wakes up bats during hibernation once a week – twice the normal amount of hibernation disturbance.

According to Allen Kurta, a biology professor at Eastern Michigan University, when the fungus keeps the bats waking up, they use up their stored fat too quickly:

“So, by arousing much more frequently, they’re using up their fat much more frequently; they are then running out of that fat come February and March, and essentially they will die of starvation because there are no flying insects out there to give them food.”

And in short, the spread of the disease is threatening the livelihood of the state's bats. 

“I think that this is one of the worst wildlife calamities ever in the history of North America,” said Kurta. “You’re looking at potential extinction of multiple species of bats.”

Luckily, there are a few things we can do to help out the little guys.

brown bat with white nose syndrome
Ryan Von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Bats with white-nose syndrome have been found in Mackinac and Dickinson counties in the Upper Peninsula and Alpena County in northern lower Michigan.

The fungal disease has killed more than six million bats in 27 states and five Canadian provinces since 2006.

Allen Kurta is a biology professor at Eastern Michigan University. He’s one of the researchers who found the infected bats. I spoke with him for today's Environment Report (you can hear him talk about white-nose syndrome above).

Kurta compares the discovery of white-nose syndrome in Michigan bats to "every member of your extended family receiving a terminal diagnosis."

“I think that this is one of the worst wildlife calamities ever in the history of North America. You’re looking at potential extinction of multiple species of bats.”

brown bat with white nose syndrome
Ryan Von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

A fungal disease that has decimated bat populations in other parts of the U.S. and Canada has been found in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome in three counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac.