January 09, 2009
WATERBURY, VT – People can expect to see bats showing up in unusual areas during the daytime in the weeks ahead, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. The department also is making it easier for people to report sightings of sick bats with a form on their website.
Like last winter, state wildlife officials are advising Vermonters to expect unusual levels of bat activity as a result of the White Nose Syndrome that has afflicted hibernating bats throughout the state. Affected bats may come out of hibernation to leave the caves and mines in search of food, and then seek shelter in residences, buildings and other structures in an effort to escape cold temperatures.
“As a result, citizens living near caves or mines with affected bats are witnessing unusual levels of activity and mortality of these animals,” says Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department wildlife biologist Scott Darling. “This type of behavior is occurring even earlier than last year,” Darling adds, “perhaps because White Nose Syndrome has further compromised the health of our bat populations over the past year.”
People living near some of the caves and mines found in towns such as Dorset, Manchester and Strafford may see dead bats on their porches or screen windows, observe bats flying during the daytime, or have bats enter their houses.
The department continues to collaborate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several other state fish and wildlife agencies to monitor the spread of White Nose Syndrome and to determine the cause of the affliction.
The syndrome, named after the fungus that can appear on a bat’s muzzle, has been documented in many caves and mines in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Recently, officials at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin identified a new, cold-loving fungus associated with the affected bats. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has received funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue its research on affected bat populations.
To assist in the monitoring of the disease, the department is asking for citizen reports of sightings of dead or dying bats, as well as unusual observations of bats flying in the daytime. Most easily, people are asked to report their observations on-line by visiting the department’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) and clicking on the Sick-acting Bat Citizen Report Form.
Citizens not having access to the internet can call 802-786-0055 to report the information.
Darling advises people to expect to see erratic, low-flying bats out in the daytime. “These bats are no more of a threat to humans than healthy bats,” he says. “They simply are looking for food and warmth.”
People having dead or dying bats on their property should not handle the animals unless necessary, and parents should advise children not to pick up any bats. All bats should be handled with gloves or tools.
“The people of Vermont continue to be a tremendous asset to our investigations into the spread and causes of White Nose Syndrome,” says Darling. “It is a reflection of the interest and concern Vermonters have for our wildlife and the health of our ecosystems.”
Source: Agency of Natural Resources
Last Updated at: January 09, 2009 16:05:32