May 24, 2023
If you took a walk on a summer evening in New England in the 1960s, you would’ve likely seen little brown bats swooping through the moonlit sky. The sight is much rarer these days. Bats have been badly hit by an infection. Yet there is hope for the flying mammals. Some little brown bats are making a comeback.
The scientific name for the little brown bat is Myotis lucifugus. Its populations have fallen 90% in the past several decades, studies show. The reason is the so-called “white nose fungus.” It's believed to have come from Europe. It forms along bats’ nose and mouth area. In warm seasons, this might just be annoying. But it's deadly in the winter. The fungus wakes up bats from hibernation. It forces hungry bats to fly into the cold in search of food that isn’t there.
The North American Bat Conservation Alliance says it’s not just Myotis lucifugus at risk. 81 of the 154 known bat species in North America are vulnerable to white nose infections. Still, recent upticks in brown bat populations have helped scientists see how bats might bounce back.
Alyssa Bennett is a scientist who studies bats in caves in Vermont. She found that some bats, especially those that hibernate in colder caves, are able to resist white nose fungus.
“There’s something special about those bats,” Bennett told The Associated Press. She and her colleague, Laura Kloepper, hope to do a thorough population study later this year.
“We want to try to understand what we can possibly do to save not only the species of bat, not only the bats at this cave, but really bats around the world,” Kloepper said.
Photo from US Fish and Wildlife Service courtesy of Ann Froschauer.
Reflect: What are some ways that we can protect animal species in our local communities and around the world?
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