Bats in Big Trouble

Posted: March 25, 2022

Some lists you want to be on. Others you don’t. The guest list for your best friend’s birthday party? Oh, yes. The endangered species list? Absolutely not!

The endangered species list includes animals that are dangerously close to becoming extinct. It features such animals as the Sumatran rhino and the Bornean orangutan. Is the northern long-eared bat about to join them?

Some officials in the United States think so. The northern long-eared bat once was common. But a deadly fungus puts the species in grave danger. The fungus causes an illness called white-nose syndrome. Infected bats hibernating in caves and mines get fuzzy spots on their wings, muzzles, and ears. The sickness makes them active. Sometimes they leave their hibernation spots too soon. They burn up their winter fat stores when they should be dormant (resting). Sadly, many eventually starve.

Bat colonies infected with white-nose syndrome were spotted in New York caves in the mid-2000s. Things have just gotten worse since then. In some bat caves, northern long-eared bats have disappeared almost completely. Imagine a cave that held 100 bats before the fungus arrived. After the fungus, that same cave would have only about three bats remaining.

Where does the virus come from? Scientists don’t know for sure. But they say it may be carried on people’s clothes and shoes.

Northern long-eared bats live in 37 U.S. states and in Canada. They gobble up pests like mosquitoes. They’re good pollinators too. Do they belong on the list? Officials will decide this November. Meanwhile, scientists work hard on a white-nose syndrome vaccine for bats.

Learn more about bats in Hand Wing Creature.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God. — Hebrews 11:3

A northern long-eared bat. Will this guy soon appear on the endangered species list? (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via AP)