5.7 Million Bats Have Died From This, But Now There’s Hope

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According to the National Wildlife Health Center, White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats. It’s named for the white fungus that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats, and scientists believe that as many as 5.7 million bats have been killed by WNS in Canada and the United States.

The fungus attacks bats when they’re hibernating, penetrating their skin, causing dehydration and burning off the fat reserves they rely on to survive the winter. The U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey believes that the fungus kills by increasing the amount of energy they use during winter hibernation. “Bats must carefully ration their energy supply during this time to survive without eating until spring. If they use up their limited energy reserves too quickly, they can die, ” says their report.

White-nose syndrome has devastated bat populations in the affected areas, and since bats are often slow to breed, this fungus has already done untold, long-term damage to the populations.

But now there’s hope.

Over the winter, a team of U.S. Forest Service biologists introduced the bacteria Rhodococcus rhodochrousin to bats in Missouri in the hopes that the bacteria would inhibit the growth of the deadly fungus. 150 bats survived.

“It looks like bats were able to survive with the help of the bacterium so it’s promising,” said Karen Vanderwolf to the CBC, a bat conservation specialist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in New Brunswick.

You can help bats in your area by giving them a safe place to call home, like this wooden bat house which mounts easily to the outside surface of your choice without skimping on style.

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