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Bat Catastrophe Spreading - Bats May Never Recover
From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Bucks County, PA Bats Will Be Dead By The Spring
Scientist - Bucks County's Bats Will Be Dead By Spring
By Amanda Cregan
The majority of bats, which fly across the night sky and feed on hundreds of thousands of insects each night in Upper and Central Bucks, will not make it past the winter months, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. 
White-Nose Syndrome, a mysterious disease that is killing off bat populations up and down the Northeast, has finally hit the Durham bat mine.
Although state scientists are trying a new, experimental treatment for the disease, commission biologist Greg Turner says it's most likely too late and too little to save the 8,000 to 10,000 little brown bats and other species of bats, which hibernate deep inside an abandoned iron mine tucked into a hillside in Durham.
Reports that bats across the Delaware River, in New Jersey, were being affected, brought game commission officials last week to the Durham mine, the second-largest hibernaculum in Pennsylvania.
"Right now, the Durham mine is affected," said Turner, an endangered mammal specialist. "About two-thirds of the bats we had handled all had the fungus on them already."
He estimates that 80 to 90 percent of Durham's bats will be dead by April, the month when healthy bats emerge from hibernation and begin mating season.
January 13, 2010 05:47 PM
White Nose Syndrome: Bat Population May Never Recover  
By Benning W. De La Mater
Berkshire Eagle Staff
SHEFFIELD -- The bat population in Massachusetts may never reach the levels it once did, and wildlife biologists fear that the disease that has decimated populations here and across the Northeast may spread south in the coming months.
It's called White Nose Syndrome, and it's an affliction that continues to stump the environmental community.
Andrew Madden, the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Western District Manager, spoke about the disease Tuesday night as part of the lecture series at Bartholomew's Cobble.
"This is one of the most important ecological issues facing us today," he said. "Wildlife biologists see animal populations go up and down over the years, but we've never seen as precipitous a decline like we've seen in the bats."
WNS was first discovered in a Schoharie County, N.Y., bat population in 2006. By 2007, it was detected in several New England states, including Massachusetts.
While it's still unknown what percentage of the state's bats have been affected, Madden said the disease has yielded catastrophic results in some parts of the sate. Mortality in some caves and mines has reached 95 or 100 percent.
Massachusetts' largest bat colony was in Chester in what was an abandoned mine. It averaged between 8,000 and 10,000 bats. By the middle of this past summer, the population was completely wiped out.
Madden said several of the smaller mines and caves in southern Berkshire County have also been affected, as people have found several hundred dead bats outside the openings.
The bats had the characteristic white, powdery fungus on their muzzles. Biologists don't know if the cold-loving fungus -- Geomyces destructans -- is a symptom of WNS or the cause.
The fungus spreads from their faces to their wings and burns up their stores of body fat during hibernation. Hungry, the bats wake during the winter months and fly out of the caves in search of food. The bats end up starving when they fail to find anything to eat.
Madden said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading the effort to find a cause. More than a dozen research labs are currently studying the syndrome.
Evidence of the syndrome has appeared in bats throughout the Northeast and is now being found as far south as Virginia, a fact that has scientists scared.
"This is a rapid spread in just three years," Madden said. "The worry is that if it spreads to Kentucky and Tennessee, where populations are in the hundreds of thousands, then we could be in trouble."
Why should we concerned about a species that most people fear? Madden said one bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes every summer, so there's no telling how changes to the bat population could ripple through the ecosystem, not to mention the human food chain.
Rene Wendell, conservation ranger at the Cobble, said he asked Madden to speak because WNS was the topic most visitors were asking about in the last year.
"We used to have bats flying around here at night, but I haven't seen any in months," he said. "Everyone's been asking, 'What's going on with the bats?'"
To reach Benning W. De La Mater
Why Mass Die-Off Of Bats Should Be Of Grave Concern 
NECN - Anya Huneke, Dorset, VT
When it comes to cute animals, bats are not generally on the top of the list. But they are a vital part of our eco-system- as a major predator of insects.
And now they are being threatened with extinction-- a number of species have contracted a disease that is causing massive die-offs.
Getting to the top of mount Aeolus in East Dorset Vermont, is never an easy feat. Especially in the dead of winter, when snow shoes are a must on this two mile uphill climb.
But it's a climb biologists are compelled to make - now, perhaps, more than ever before, as they search for answers to a mystery that has them profoundly baffled... And concerned.
The Aeolus cave is where bats from all over New England hibernate for the winter, historically, the largest site of its kind in the region.
But in just two years' time, the population of bats here has plummeted- ever since a disease called 'white nose syndrome' was discovered in caves and mines across the state.
The fungus - which appears on the muzzles and wings of bats - was first identified in New York during the winter of 2006 and 7... And quickly spread to neighboring states- including Vermont and Massachusetts.
It has now moved as far south as Virginia.
Tuesday, a group of five wildlife experts ventured into Aeolus cave. Barely inside the entrance- they started to lose hope. A few bats - frozen to death - clung to the wall. And farther in, more disheartening signs. The main room of the cave is generally filled with hibernating bats.
But this time in- scientists spotted just a few small clusters.
Wildlife biologist Scott Darling had hoped for the best, but knew the numbers likely would be low.
On a site visit last winter, he found tens of thousands of bat carcasses on the ground.
The floor of Aeolus is now covered with bat bones-- left over from a major bat die-off last year. And the ceiling- where there are normally many thousands of bats- there are now very few.
The difference is stark-- here's a picture from last year, when infection was already rampant in this cave.
And here is one from this year. Yet little to date is known about the fungus-- its cause... or its cure. What scientists do know is that bats with white nose syndrome lose their winter fat reserves faster than normal... And emerge from hibernation early- and hungry.
During warmer weather, most bats feed on insects-- acting as a natural pesticide by consuming large quantities each night.
That is one reason the impact of this mass mortality of bats, experts say, should be of grave concern.
Darling says the timing of this crisis is unfortunate- with federal funding limited and many other national issues taking precedence.
But *this* issue - these experts say - is unprecedented...
Many infected caves and mines - including Aeolus - are seeing a 90-percent or greater mortality rate.
Experts say bats are slow to reproduce- about one offspring per year. So with the number of bat deaths across the region now moving into the millions, a fix, if one is found, will be years in the making.
Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics Univ of West Indies Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at: http://www.emergingdisease.org/phpbb/index.php Also my new website: http://drpdoyle.tripod.com/ Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health 
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