Skin-eating fungus is killing all of New York’s bats

Ghouls and goblins painted the town last week, but bats were few and far between this Halloween — because a skin-eating fungus has wiped out 90 percent of them in New York state.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation revealed the stunning number of dead bats during National Bat Week, and warned people exploring caves and other possible hibernation sites “that even a single, seemingly quiet visit” can kill infected bats.

The Little Brown Bat that’s common in New York City is among the species that have been decimated by the disease, according to Fordham University Biological Sciences professor, J. Alan Clark, who has researched the city’s bat population using acoustic monitoring.

“The Little Brown Bat was at one time thought to be the most common bat,” he said. “But it took us four or five years to record one.”

White-nose syndrome — first discovered in Schoharie County in 2006 — is a highly contagious fungus that appears as a white fuzz around the bats’ noses and mouths, and carves tiny holes in their skin, Clark explained.

New York is home to nine bat species, and six live in New York City, according to Clark. Three have been known to hibernate here: the Hoary, Eastern Red and Silver-Haired Bats.

“Tree crevices, attics, little holes in bark, those are places they might be,” Clark said.

Clark said the worst of the white-nose plague could be over, as about 5 percent of bats “seem to have some natural resistance and are breeding.”

And while bats typically get a bad rap as blood-sucking, rabies-carrying menaces, Clark said the resurgence of the world’s only flying
mammal will help keep pests under control.

“The Little Brown Bat can eat 3,000 insects per night, and one colony can eat 250,000 mosquitoes in a night,” he said. “They have been both revered and reviled throughout history but they are such an important part of our ecosystem.”

Source: Read Full Article