National Bat Week, a campaign to inspire Americans to help protect bats, kicks off Oct. 26. This initiative is important to Colorado, home of 18 species of bats, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) who is monitoring bat hibernation sites this winter for the effects of White-nose Syndrome (WNS).
“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.”
WNS, which is caused by a fungus known as Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is responsible for large scale bat die-offs in the Eastern United States, in some cases killing 100% of the bats in a site. WNS is named for the white powder seen on the nose, ears, and wings of infected bats.
WNS has not been found in Colorado, however since first documented in a New York cave in 2007, WNS has spread to 25 states and 5 Canadian provinces.
Some signs of WNS in bat populations are: 1.) Bats moving to the openings of the hibernation site during the winter. 2.) Bats leaving hibernation sites in the winter, especially on cold days. 3.) Bats with a white powder on their nose, ears or wings. 4.) Dead bats.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking the public to report the sighting of any active or dead bats this winter. A special phone line 303-291-7771 and an email address (Wildlife.Batline@state.co.us) are available to report sightings.
CPW would also like to know of any sites, especially in eastern Colorado, that have hibernating bats so biologists can include them in the monitoring effort.
Finally, the public is asked to not disturb hibernating bats and to respect cave closures. All the bat species found in Colorado are insect eaters, in some cases eating thousands of insects a night. This diet of night flying insects makes bats important for the control of agricultural and human pests. Bats are also important to the cave environments they roost in, bringing energy into these mostly closed systems in the form of their guano.
Learn more about bats and participate in National Bat Week Oct 26-Nov.1. Go to http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/Bats.aspx for a list of activities.