Amazing Nature: Little Brown Bats Could Be Saving Themselves

You may have heard about "white nose" syndrome, which has been decimating bat populations in the eastern US and is moving across the country.

In just the past six years, even the most common "Little Brown Bats" have crashed – their populations are down over 90%. Scientists now know the cause is a fungus imported from Europe but they haven’t figured out how to stop it.

The news is bleak, but nature gives us hope by it’s ability to adapt and adjust. And nature and humans will have to do much more of this in the years to come.

Bats hibernate by the thousands in caves and even attics in old houses. They snuggle up as tightly as possible, which passes white nose from bat to bat – killing most of not all of them in one winter.

If the trend continues, scientists say there’s little doubt Little Brown Bats and other bat species will quickly be extinct.

But they could be saving themselves by changing their hibernating behavior.

"We’re no longer seeing the substantial declines we did before, and in fact, several populations have stabilized or are even growing," Kate Langwig, a University of California doctoral student told the NY Times.

The fungus is affecting a smaller percentage of the bats because "They went from being primarily highly gregarious and roosting in large clusters to primarily roosting individually," Langwig concludes as lead author of study published in the journal Ecology Letters.

The bats are just a few inches apart, but that seems to make all the difference in spreading the disease.

You can see in the photo below that the bats that are touching have a "white nose" and the one that’s separated doesn’t.

Bat White Nose

"It does seem to be a real change in behavior," she told the NY Times.

Here in Maine, I look for the bats I’ve always seen fly over our lake when dusk settles in. There were always hundreds, this year there are none. But there are lots of mosquitoes, when before there were none.

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