With nearly 90 percent declines in some species of bats due to White Nose Syndrome, scientists in the Northeast conducted an experiment this winter aimed at finding alternative strategies to save infected bats.
Biologists from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bucknell University and Vermont Fish and Wildlife transported 30 little brown bats from caves in Vermont and New York to a decommissioned military bunker in northern Maine. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Biologist Susi von Oettingen explains that the artificial hibernacula had been prepared to replicate cave conditions, in part to determine what factor habitat plays in the spread of the disease.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department Bat Biologist Scott Darling notes that all the bats placed in the bunker were infected, but scientists hoped a clean environment would aid survival rates.
In March biologists collected the bats from the bunker, and Scott Darling says the nine that survived were returned to their original caves.
Center for Biological Diversity Northeast Conservation Advocate Mollie Matteson has been tracking the spread of White Nose Syndrome. She reports that it has moved west to Missouri and south to the largest gray bat colony in the world in Alabama. She says it’s vital that researchers think creatively to find solutions.
Scott Darling says the bunker experiment, referred to as a Noah’s Ark strategy, is thought by some to be a last-ditch effort to save bat species.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department cites data from the Journal Science, which reports bats generate an estimated $3.7 billion a year in benefits to North American agriculture through insect pest control and crop pollination.