Bats on the Brink of Extinction

When most people think of bats, they think of them as scary pests, disease-laden animals or even vampires.  The truth, however, is that bats are actually important to us as pollinators and should be thought of as necessary rather than threatening.  One of the biggest threats to the bat population is white-nose syndrome, which was actually caused by humans. 

White-nose syndrome has been killing bat populations since 2007, and has killed millions of hibernating bats across North America.  The disease is caused by a fungus from Eurasia, which was originally transported by people, according to Bat Conservation International.  The disease is named after the white fungus Pseudogymnoascus Destructans, which causes infections in the ears, muzzles and wings of hibernating bats.  According to the U.S. Geological Society, more than seven species of bats have been affected by the disease, and bat populations have declined by approximately 80 percent.  Symptoms of the disease include skin erosion, loss of body fat and scarring on wings, and the disease can kill an entire colony.  White-nose syndrome disrupts bats during hibernation and can be transmitted from bat to bat with contact, and ultimately causes bats to starve to death. 

Bats are important balancers of ecosystems, as they are great pollinators and also keep the populations of some insects in check.  It has been estimated that the die-off of bat populations will cause more than 2.4 million pounds of insects to go uneaten, which can cause crop damage and a huge financial burden to farmers, according to  Bat populations could go extinct if the disease is not stopped or cured.  

In addition to white-nose syndrome, bats are also being threatened by habitat destruction, climate change, wind turbines and pesticides, and although research is currently being done to find a solution for bats, one thing you can do is to avoid areas of caves where bats are in order to minimize disturbances to bat populations.  Also, be sure to keep habitat areas clean from trash and debris to help protect bats and other wildlife!


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