February 28, 2008
WATERBURY, VT -- State wildlife agencies continue to monitor the spread of the sickness known as “white nose syndrome” affecting hibernating bats in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. The sickness has been documented in 16 caves or mines where an estimated 500,000 bats spend the winter.
In many instances, bats are flying out of the cave or mine and are now being observed by the public around residences. Vermont officials see this as a means of monitoring the locations of affected bat populations throughout the state and are now asking the public to report observations of flying or dead bats.
“We are already receiving reports of bats flying around during the day in Arlington, Pownal and Brattleboro,” said Scott Darling, bat biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “In some of these instances, this information is leading us to new caves or mines that have never been surveyed for hibernating bat populations, and this gives us additional sites to check for the sickness. The more we can determine the speed at which this ailment is spreading and the site conditions that this sickness can be found in, the better we can piece together what is causing this sickness and how is it being spread.”
Vermont Fish & Wildlife has collaborated with USDA Wildlife Services so that public observations of dead or flying bats can be reported during March by calling the rabies hotline telephone number (1-800-472-2437). Information provided through the hotline number will allow biologists to follow up on reports, respond to public inquiries, and, if necessary, collect dead specimens. Bats normally leave their wintering areas as the weather starts to warm up, so reports of bat sightings after March are not needed.
While there is no evidence that the sickness afflicting bats can be transmitted to humans, do not touch sick or dead wild animals. People should not handle bats unless absolutely necessary. Any bats that must be handled should be picked up with gloves or other materials that would prevent bites or contact with the bat. Materials used in handling the bats should either be discarded or washed in hot water, detergent, and 10 bleach solution (1 ½ cups of bleach to 1 gallon of water).
“We do not want to overstate the risk from this bat sickness, but we still do not know what it is that is causing these deaths,” adds Darling.
Source: Agency of Natural Resources
Last Updated at: February 28, 2008 14:31:12