Friday, January 23, 2009

Pennsylvania Bats in Danger?

There's evidence that a deadly bat disorder known as White Nose Syndrome that's killed hundreds of thousands of bats in New York and New England may be spreading to Pennsylvania. Many of the stricken bats have a fungus on their noses and wings, though it's not known if that's a symptom or a cause.

Infected bats in other areas leave their hibernacula in winter for unknown reasons, according to Jerry Feaser of the PA Game Commission. With exposure to cold and no available food, they soon deplete their fat reserves and die.

There's no sign Pennsylvania bats are leaving prematurely, but some have the whitish fungus and are moving to cave entrances--a possible precursor to departure.

Recovering from a huge die-off--90% of some colonies-- will be difficult because bats have only one pup a year. Feaser says bats are crucial to the environment because they eat millions of insects that destroy crops and can make it miserable for people to be outside. Scientists are monitoring and researching but don't yet know if they can help bats overcome the disease.

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