By Andrew Larson, submitted to Rense.com by Patricia Doyle
A recent survey shows that, out of 3,000 bats living in a Litchfield County cave three years ago, only seven are still alive, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday.
The population of bats in the Northeast is dwindling because of an aggressive
fungal disease, wildlife officials say, prompting fears that the animals are
headed for extinction.
A recent survey shows that, out of 3,000 bats living in a Litchfield County
cave three years ago, only seven are still alive, the state Department of
Environmental Protection said Tuesday.
A mysterious, fast-spreading disease called white-nose syndrome is to blame
for their demise.
"What we know is that the fungus is at the center of what is happening to
these bats," said Jenny Dickson, supervising biologist for the state DEP. "This
is the key to the decline of the bat population, which is something we did not
know a year ago."
Bats are essential to the ecosystem because they eat insects such as
mosquitoes, beetles and moths, acting as a natural pesticide, Dickson said. Bats
are capable of eating about one-third of their body weight in insects each
night. The diminished bat population may lead to increased use of chemical
pesticides, she added.
White-nose syndrome, which causes fungus to grow on the faces and wings of
nearly all species of bats, was first seen in 2006. What began as an isolated
problem in a New York cave has spread rapidly to Canada and as far south as
Tennessee, near the North Carolina border.
It's unclear whether the fungus, or its effects, is causing the cave-dwelling
animals to die. Either way, once the disease is contracted, it's just about
impossible for bats to survive.
"Usually once we see that happen, the prognosis for those individuals is not good," Dickson said.