89.1 WEMU

Issues Of The Environment: Protecting Bats From White-Nose Syndrome

Nov 17, 2016

Little Brown Bat Affected by White Nose Syndrome
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Bats have a positive impact on Michigan's ecosystem, but a terrible affliction known as "white-nose syndrome" is threatening their population.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks with  Dr. Allen Kurta, professor of biology at Eastern Michigan University, about the ecological impacts posed by a decimation in certain bat species. 


Overview

   *   The fungus responsible for White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has arrived in Michigan, and Dr. Kurta has been documenting the devastation this year, finding bat numbers are down 40-60% in parts of Michigan.

   *   Bats are ecologically and economically significant in Michigan, controlling pests like the emerald ash borer and corn earworm moth.

   *   This year, bats, in particular the long-eared bat (a tree dwelling species that particularly hard hit by WNS), received some additional protection from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The 4(d) rule makes it illegal to take the bats or the trees where they raise their young in June or July, or while they are hibernating.  Dr. Kurta says that the locations of many of the trees where bat maternity colonies are located are not mapped, so untold numbers are likely to still be at risk.

   *   As the weather grows colder, bats in our listening area (primarily the little brown bat which Kurta has found to be quite affected by WNS) may accidentally enter dwellings, and there is a small risk of rabies if bitten.  However, humans are a greater threat to bats, and, as they become more imperiled, care should be taken to preserve them when it is necessary to remove colonies from the home.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu