News Releases

April 23, 2009

Wildlife Officials Advise Sick Bats Returning to Summer Range

WATERBURY, VT -- The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says bats will be returning to their summer maternity colonies as the weather gets warmer.

Department biologists say most of these bats are affected with White Nose Syndrome that has afflicted Vermont’s bat populations.

“As a result”, says State Wildlife Biologist Scott Darling, “many of these bats are so physically compromised that they will be exhibiting abnormal behaviors such as flying or roosting out in the open during the day or flopping on the ground as they die.”

White nose syndrome, named after the fungus that can appear on a bat’s muzzle, has been documented in caves and mines from Vermont to as far south as Virginia. Wildlife experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of bats have died this past winter, and many that survived will continue to die as they return to their summer range.

“We know from last year that many of the bats that survived the winter will make it back to their usual summer colony sites, but many of them remain in such poor condition they will continue to die well into May and June,” said Darling.

Darling advises citizens to be cautious about being exposed to these sick bats. Because white nose syndrome appears to be linked to a cold-temperature fungus, there is no evidence that it is transmitted to humans or pets. However, dying bats are often observed crawling or flopping in houses or on lawns and driveways. Many citizens assume these bats are rabid and, in some cases, actively kill or gather the bats.

Dead or sick bats should not be handled because a small percentage of them may carry rabies. Darling says it is far more likely they are affected by white nose syndrome. A total of 650 bats with white nose syndrome from northeastern states were tested in the last year and a half, and only one had rabies.

Darling recommends that bats observed dying be left alone or, if necessary, removed using either gloves or tools such as shovels. Darling adds, “In particular, I caution residents with young children to warn them not to chase or pick up any bats they see.”

The Vermont Department of Health would like to test any bat for rabies that is found in a room with an unattended child, a sleeping individual, or that has had physical contact with a person.

To assist in the monitoring of white nose syndrome, the department is asking for citizen reports of sightings of dead or dying bats, as well as unusual observations of bats flying in the daytime. People are asked to report their observations by visiting the department’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) and clicking on the Sick-acting Bat Citizen Report Form.

Citizens not having access to the internet can call 802-786-0055 to report the information.

The department no longer needs additional bat specimens for lab analyses.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is working closely with other state agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as several wildlife health laboratories to determine the cause and possible management strategies for white nose syndrome.

Source: Agency of Natural Resources
Last Updated at: April 23, 2009 15:48:38