Happy Bat Week!
We’re joining conservation partners across North America this week to celebrate bats. These fascinating animals are vital to a healthy environment, but since 2006 millions of bats have died from a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leads the nation’s response to this deadly disease, awarding almost $20 million in grants to states, federal agencies and researchers.
One of the projects we funded is a study to determine overwinter survival and behavior of little brown bats and northern long-eared bats at Aeolus Cave in Vermont.
Researchers from the states of Vermont and New York, along with Vesper Environmental, LLC are using high-tech equipment to study bat movements there.
Tiny passive inducible transponders (PIT tags) glued to the backs of bats emit a unique signal identifying individual bats when they fly through an antenna array at the cave’s entrance.
Data from the research will shed light on whether bats counted in Northeast hibernation sites are survivors of white-nose syndrome and are beginning a population recovery, or remnants of a population that is now slowly declining towards extinction. We hope it’s not the latter!
Last month, we joined the researchers at Aeolus Cave as they captured, banded and tagged bats for the study.
Aeolus Cave is an important hibernation site for little brown bats, which travel from their summer homes around New England and New York to breed there and/or stay for the winter. Bats are long-lived species, often surviving into their teens or twenties, but white-nose syndrome has led to population declines of 90% or more. So it was very exciting to detect a bat in 2014 that was originally PIT-tagged at her New Hampshire summer colony in 2006. This bat has somehow survived through every winter that white-nose syndrome has been documented in North America!
Check out some video of the Aeolus Cave bats in action