If you’re out at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey just before sunset, you may catch a glimpse of a returning summer resident, sweeping through the twilight like a flickering, acrobatic shadow. If you’re especially observant, you may notice that these winged silhouettes look slightly bigger than they did a few years ago.
From 2006 through 2010, research showed that the refuge offered ideal habitat for the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), and at the time, supported several maternity colonies of Indiana bats. The little brown (Myotis lucifugus), northern (Myotis septentrionalis), tricolored (Perimyotis subflavus), big brown (Eptesicus fuscus), and eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) are some other common bat species known to spend summers at Great Swamp.
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But during this time, white-nose syndrome (WNS) hit northern New Jersey. The rapidly spreading fungal disease has devastated populations of hibernating bats across the U.S. since its discovery in 2006.
In the summer of 2012, employees at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge began piecing together the impacts of WNS on refuge bats. Annual capture rates of small bats – Indiana, little brown, northern and tricolored bats – plummeted, while capture rates of larger species, including big brown and eastern red bats, began to gradually climb. Unlike before the local outbreak of WNS, considerably more large-bodied bats than small-bodied bats were captured. …Keep reading this story!