For a few days at the end of February I was able to attend the joint meeting of the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network, the Northeastern Bat Working Group, The Midwest Bat Working Group, and the 21st annual Mammal Colloquium. It was held in Louisville at the beautiful Seelbach Hotel from the 23-25.
The first few days focused on the impacts of White Nose Syndrome and wind energy. It was a depressing couple of days!!! The news is not good.
White Nose has been found in many states and has also moved into Canada. See this website for further information http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/.
White Nose Syndrome is a fungus that grows quite well in the cave environment where certain bat species hibernate over the winter. The fungus was probably introduced from Europe. It grows on the skin of bats and is thought to cause them to wake up repeatedly when they should be hibernating. There is no food when they wake and they essentially starve to death. In many cases there is almost 100% mortality in the caves where it is found. We are not talking about just a few bats...a few hundred thousand bats to only a few hundred...or less. The species most affected are Little Brown, Northern Long Ear, Tri-color (or Eastern Pipistrille) and to a lesser extent, the Big Brown bat.
Wind energy is a whole other story...the turbines that are being put up at an increasing rate are having an affect on our migrating bat species, the Eastern Red bat, Silver-Hair bat and Ohio's largest species, the Hoary bat. The exact cause of mortality in these bats is still unclear. They may not be able to "see" the fast moving blades and are directly impacted by them, or they are brought in by the pressure change the rotating blades produce and undergo something called barotrauma...their lungs burst. It's uncertain how these deaths are affecting the populations as a whole, but I tend to think it can't be good.
There was a silver lining, however, as researchers at Bat Conservation International are finding ways to deter the bats from coming near the turbines. see this webiste for more info www.batcon.org
If you would like to become a member of the Midwestern Bat Working Group visit http://mwbwg.org/