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Going Batty

Not everyone likes to talk about them, they are labored with misinformation and they are dying. Bats are one of the most unique but often misrepresented wildlife species that we have in the area and unfortunately, we are losing some of them at an alarming rate. Bats are the only true flying mammals. There are several species found in Ontario and while some migrate south when winter arrives, a few stay behind and hibernate in caves. It is these hibernating bats that are dying en masse due to a fungal disease known as white nose syndrome. The fungus was first detected in a cave near Albany, New York in 2006 and has since spread to 5 provinces, including Ontario, and 22 U.S. states. The fungus originated in Europe and was brought to North America probably by spores on human boots or clothing. The fungus attaches itself to the nose and wings of hibernating bats and causes infected bats to wake up in the middle of their winter hibernation. They search for their insect meals but none are available and their fat reserves are depleted causing starvation and death. Since its arrival in 2006, estimates are that approximately 7 million bats have died. 70-90 percent of bats in affected caves usually die. It has been described by some as the worst wildlife catastrophe of our generation.

If you like food, you should like bats and if you don’t like bugs, you should definitely like bats. They protect crops from insect infestations and a single bat can consume thousands of insects in one night. They play a vital role on the landscape and are incredibly important parts of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere ecosystem.

For more information, check out the following links. There are many ways you can help.

http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/white-nose_syndrome/

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/business/fw/2columnsubpage/278166.html

http://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/