DEP Says CT Bat Population Hit Hard by White Nose Syndrome

A syndrome that attacks hibernating bats is much more severe in
Connecticut this winter than last and will lead to a dramatic
reduction in the size of the state’s bat population this summer,
according to wildlife experts at the Connecticut Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP).

The DEP says visits to Connecticut’s two major winter
hibernaculas – caves and mines where bats hibernate– revealed that
80 to 90 percent of the bats there have died after contracting what
is known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS).

DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, “While no one yet knows for
sure what is causing WNS and why such large numbers of bats are
dying, we will see the ramifications of this in just a few months.
Far fewer bats will be out there working to consume mosquitoes and
other flying insects that attack people as well as our forests and
farmlands.”

Jenny Dickson, DEP Supervising Wildlife Biologist, said, “WNS is
having much more of an impact on Connecticut’s population this
winter than last – with many more bats showing the tell-tale signs
of white fungus, higher mortality rates and the spread of the
syndrome to additional species.”

Dickson said, “WNS continues to hit hard among little brown bats
(Myotis lucifugus) and northern long-eared bats (Myotis
septentrionalis) – two species most commonly seen in the state –
but has spread to other species such as the eastern
pipistrelle.”

Dickson also noted that WNS continues to take its toll in the
neighboring states of Massachusetts and New York, where a
significant percentage of the state’s bat population hibernates for
the winter.

“When you put together the massive die-off in our hibernaculas
and the continued spread of WNS in adjoining states, the news is
not good,” said Dickson. “Bats live long lives and reproduce in
small numbers – so there is no doubt that WNS will have a major and
long-term impact on our bat population and on the biodiversity and
ecosystems of our state.”

Dickson also noted that the presence of WNS in bats has spread
geographically.

After first being discovered in caves in New York in the winter
of 2006-2007, it is now being seen as far as Vermont and New
Hampshire to the north and Virginia and West Virginia to the
south.

Bats with WNS have a white fungus on their noses and
occasionally other parts of their bodies. It is unknown if the
fungus is causing the death of bats or is symptomatic of a disease
or other health issue. There is no indication that people are
susceptible to the fungus.

Dickson said people should also be aware of erratic behavior in
bats that is caused by WNS. She said DEP has many reports of bats
coming out of hibernation early, flying around during the day and
trying to hibernate in unsuitable places.

DEP is asking the public to report incidents of such behavior to
DEP by calling (860)675-8130. As the weeks go on, the agency would
also like to hear from people about changes in the number of bats
they are seeing this spring and summer compared to last year or bat
colonies that once existed and do not return to their previous
homes.

Dickson said DEP is working with other affected states, federal
agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S.
Geological Survey and several research universities to learn more
about WNS and determine its cause.

Additional information about WNS – and its impact in various
states – can be found at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html

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