Bad news for bats
One evening, a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were sitting on our deck trying to stay cool under the shade of the large Norway maple tree that shelters us from the day-long sun. It was hot, way too hot for me to do anything meaningful, so we just sat and read. For me it was unfathomable how people in the western and southwestern part of the country could endure the brutal 100-plus degree weather they were having. After the sun set, I put down my book and stared at my wife’s flower garden near our back fence, but something seemed wrong.
In years past I remember enjoying seeing small bats banking, diving, turning, twisting and doing all sorts of aerial acrobatics while feeding on the flying insects that found our yard to their liking. It made me feel good knowing the little creatures were ridding our environs of irritating mosquitoes and other nasty flying critters. “Eat baby, eat,” I often said, grateful the bats lived so close. But all that has seemed to have changed.
It suddenly occurred to me I haven’t seen a bat in our backyard for the past several years and it was an alarming thought. It seems wild bats are suffering from a condition called white nose syndrome, a fungal infection that's causing the death of bats by the tens of thousands.
White nose syndrome first appeared in New York in 2006 but it isn’t found just here. Twenty two states have reported the disease and there is neither a known cause nor any way to treat it. Biologists say bats are slow breeders and have just one offspring per year, which means recovery of bat populations can take a very long time – if they can ever recover. Bats haven’t gone the way of the passenger pigeon just yet but they are endangered and unless something changes bats may disappear and we will be all the poorer for it. Let’s hope not.