Biologists from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) were featured last month in a National Public Radio story about the epidemic of white-nose syndrome in northeastern bat populations. Kate Moran, Morgan Bengel, and Brian Hess, all from DEEP, described the concerning phenomenon and the agency’s efforts to track population impacts and study survivors, and watch for potential mitigation strategies.
White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that affects bats’ muzzles and wings and interferes with their hibernation and fat stores. The disease has decimated populations across the United States since it first emerged here over a decade ago.
Although the situation has worrisome implications for bats and species that depend on their ecosystem services (including humans), Hess offered some hope: “There are little microclimates within caves that can help bats to survive that fungal load, because the fungus doesn’t grow quite as well [there]…Things are dire. But the fact that we still have bats is an encouragement and a reason to keep trying, to make sure they still hang around.”