Bats, nature’s own mosquito zappers, are in danger of dying out from a fast-moving disease.
> 99.9 — percentage of little brown bats lost to white-nose syndrome since a deadly fungus arrived in Massachusetts
> 8 — number of bat species that live in the state (all but 3 get white nose)
> 10,000-20,000 — estimated population of little brown bats statewide in 2007 (white-nose syndrome was discovered in 2006)
> 20-30 — estimated winter population of little brown bats today
> 400 — estimated summer population
> 600 — number of insects one bat can eat in an hour (mosquitoes
are a favorite)
> 1,455,051 — 2,910,102 — estimated pounds of insects in the Northeast that go uneaten by bats annually because of white-nose syndrome
LIKE KRYPTONITE FOR BATS
White-nose syndrome is a fungus from Europe that scientists theorize came to the United States on the gear of a spelunker. European bats are not affected by it, but it kills many species of American bats; it destroys wing tissue and causes the bats to wake more often in winter, depleting their fat reserves until they die. The death toll since 2007 is 5 million to 6 million. “The good news is that the less than one half of one percent that survived may have a genetic level of immunity to it,” says Tom French, assistant director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. “So we hope the survivors will be the seed for recovery.”
PUT THE TENNIS RACKET DOWN
If a bat gets into your house, don’t kill it — it may be an endangered little brown bat. Instead, open the doors and windows and allow it to fly out. There’s no need to contact a wildlife expert unless you see a colony; then, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: Massachusetts Audubon Society; US Forest Service; US Geological Survey; Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife; savebats.org