Sunday, September 7, 2014
The Cave Dwellers
Despite my unreasonable fear of contracting rabies, I am fond of bats. I even did field research two summers for a local university tracking a colony of little brown bats nearby my home. In the gloaming they would swarm out of their roost, tilting and dipping over the sky, feasting on insects until dawn. We are years removed from that now, where dozens or hundreds of bats might be seen exiting a roost to hunt through the Pennsylvania night. White Nose Syndrome (WNS) has claimed 7 million bats in the eastern US and Canada, driving some species to the edge of extinction. Now when I see a bat I actually make a note of it in my journal, so rare an occurrence has it become.
Stopping the spread of the disease has proved to be difficult, as every year since its discovery in the winter of 2006, WNS has been confirmed further north, south, east and west from its epicenter of Schoharie County, New York. Mortality rates for infected roosts are between 90-100%. A statistic cannot get anymore stark than 100%.
Pray this is not the end of the fledermaus.