Bat update: hopeful news for one species, work continues

by Connie Oswald Stofko

bat illustration
Illustration by Connie Oswald Stofko

Bat populations have suffered devasting declines for more than a decade, with a disease called white-nose syndrome playing a role.

There still isn’t a treatment for bats suffering from white-nose syndrome, though a collaborative effort is working on it. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Department of Health are partnering with researchers from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and experts at universities across the country.

Thanks to this effort, we know that not disturbing bats while they’re hibernating helps the remaining animals survive. Don’t enter a cave or mine with hibernating bats from Oct. 1 through April 30.

Number of little brown bats is up

The good news is that scientists have found some evidence of recovery of the once-common little brown bat throughout New York State, according to the DEC.

While this provides a hopeful outlook for the little brown bat, the same can’t be said for other severely affected bat species.

Two other species are endangered

Two species of bats are currently protected under federal and State endangered species law.

The Indiana bat, which is sparsely distributed across New York, is a federally endangered bat. Even before white-nose syndrome began affecting bat populations, it was listed as endangered.

The northern long-eared bat is protected as a threatened species under federal and New York State law. This bat used to be common, but now the population is only about one percent of its previous size. This species is the one most severely affected by white-nose syndrome. While their numbers are low, they are still widely distributed throughout New York State. Northern long-eared bats have been documented in most of the approximately 100 caves and mines where bats hibernate.

Find out more

For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit the White-Nose Syndrome Response Team website. Details about the protection of the northern long-eared bat can be found on DEC’s website.

It’s Bat Week. Find out more about why you should welcome bats into your landscape in our previous article.

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