Biodiversity: Forest Service says better bat tracking needed to combat threats

Standardized monitoring to help assess population trends

Thousand of bats fly out of a roost near Saguache, Colorado. PHOTO BY COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE.

Thousand of bats fly out of a roost near Saguache, Colorado, an event that draws wildlife watchers each year. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Staff Report

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service scientists hope a new report will help scientists across the country track bats more effectively in an era when the flying mammals are facing unprecedented threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation, white-nose syndrome , wind energy development, and climate change.

Better tracking can help resource managers get the information they need to manage bat populations effectively, by detecting early warning signs of population declines, and estimating extinction risks.

White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats since it was first detected in 2006, and more than 1 million have been killed at wind energy facilities since 2000. Combined with intensified pressure from land-use changes, scientists say there’s a real need for a continent-wide standardized monitoring system. Continue reading

Bat-killing fungus spreads west to Oklahoma

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Bat-killing white-nose syndrome has spread west in Oklahoma. Photo via USFWS.

Are western bats at risk?

Staff Report

FRISCO — A bat-killing fungal disease that has wiped out millions of the winged mammals has spread west into Oklahoma, reinforcing concerns that bats across the country are at risk from white-nose syndrome.

Three tricolored bats in a cave in Delaware County tested positive for the fungus, according to Oklahoma wildife biologists. This early detection is likely a precursor to the appearance of the full-blown disease in two to three years, according to conservation biologists with the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

Environment: Bat-killing disease spread into Iowa

Conservation advocates say more protection needed

FRISCO — Bat-killing white-nose syndrome has spread into Iowa, state wildlife officials confirmed this week, announcing that the deadly fungal disease was found on three bats near a cave entrance in Des Moines County (two little brown bats and one northern long-eared) and on four little brown bats collected in Van Buren County this winter.

Biologists first detected the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in an Iowa cave in 2011, but did not find afflicted bats until this winter. The latest report means that the disease is now present in more than half of the 50 states, concentrated in the eastern half of the country, and once again, conservation groups are sounding the alarm, charging that wildlife agencies aren’t doing enough to protect the flying mammals. Continue reading

Biologists trace physiological course of bat-killing disease

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A bat shows symptoms of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that is wiping out bat populations in the U.S. Photo courtesy USGS.

Study tests energy depletion hypothesis

Staff Report

FRISCO —New research by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin is helping biologists solve the puzzle of white-nose syndrome, the fungal disease that has devastated bat populations in the eastern U.S. The new study how the disease progresses from initial infection to death in bats during hibernation.

“This model is exciting for us, because we now have a framework for understanding how the disease functions within a bat,” said University of Wisconsin and USGS National Wildlife Health Center scientist Michelle Verant, the lead author of the study. “The mechanisms detailed in this model will be critical for properly timed and effective disease mitigation strategies.” Continue reading

Why do bats fly into wind turbines?

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Close observation of bat behavior around wind turbines may help reduce bat deaths.

Study results may aid bat conservation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say they may be a step closer to being able to reduce widespread bat mortality associated with the development of wind energy.

Based on months of nighttime video surveillance, U.S. Geological Society researchers say some species of the flying mammals may be mistaking the wind turbines for trees. The tree-roosting bats may be confusing the turbines for trees, according to USGS scientist Paul Cryan.

“If we can understand why bats approach wind turbines, we may be able to turn them away,” Cryan said. “Advances in technology helped us overcome the difficulties of watching small bats flying in the dark around the 40-story heights of wind turbines. The new behaviors we saw are useful clues in the quest to know how bats perceive wind turbines and why they approach them.”  Continue reading

Environment: Colorado biologists still on the lookout for bat-killing white-nose sydrome

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Reports from the public can help inform monitoring, response

Staff Report

FRISCO — Marking the start of National Bat Week (Oct. 26-Nov.1), Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said they’ll be carefully monitoring bat hibernation sites this winter for the effects of White-nose Syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that has killed between 5.7 and 6.7 million hibernating bats in caves and inactive mines in the eastern U.S.

“Bats are an important yet under-appreciated part of our world,” said CPW Species Conservation Coordinator Tina Jackson. “This threat is something we all should be worried about,” she added. Continue reading

Great Smoky Mountains National Park seeks to protect bat populations by limiting seasonal access to hibernation area

Monitoring to help inform conservation plan

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A map from Bat Conservation International shows the spread of white-nose syndrome in the eastern United States.

Staff Report

RISCO — The National Park Service hopes to protect bat populations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a winter closure to limit human disturbance to bat hibernacula and help hikers avoid interactions with bats.

The Whiteoak Sink area will be closed through March 31 while park biologists monitor  the site throughout the winter to cllect population, ecological and behavioral data. The information will be used to develop a long-term protection plan. An extended closure through late spring may be recommended if the winter data suggests such an action would increase the chances for survival of a significant number of bats. Continue reading

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