The cumulative impact of wind power facilities in killing migratory bats threatens to become an environmental crisis that cannot be ignored. By 2012, more than 600,000 bats were being killed annually, and the number grows each year (Hayes 2013).
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly known as Geomyces destructans). It was first recorded from a photo taken in a cave in Schoharie County, New York in 2006.
Millions of tourists have watched free-tailed bat emergences from the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas over the past 35 years without anyone ever having been harmed. Signs warn visitors not to handle the bats.
“I learned to photograph bats as an act of desperation. If efforts to conserve bats were to succeed, people needed to see them as they naturally are–gentle, inquisitive, even beautiful.” -Merlin Tuttle Pictured is Merlin preparing to photograph newly tamed spectral bat (Vampyrum spectrum). This gentle and intelligent carnivorous species is one of Merlin’s favorites.
Read Merlin’s article, Give Bats a Break, in the Spring 2017 edition of Issues in Science and Technology. This report is based on Merlin’s review of thousands of scientific papers and popular media stories. And it is the first to expose how sensational speculation is fostering bad science in a self-perpetuating cycle of misdirected public health funding that threatens the future of bats. This is an issue that we cannot ignore.
Pre-siting Environmental Impact Studies: These are typically under-funded, inadequate to evaluate true wildlife risks, and often do not include objective, scientific peer review, either of methodology or results. Most are too short in duration and fail to consider the potential for turbines to attract bats in numbers not present during pre-siting monitoring.
Bats are primary predators of the vast numbers of insects that fly at night, and some species consume large numbers of mosquitoes when they are available. However, mosquito control is a complex problem that rarely can be solved by a single approach, be it bat houses or pesticides.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is caused by a fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans). It has spread rapidly across North America since it apparently arrived from Europe in 2006, and it has killed millions of bats. However, because infected bats can quickly travel long distances, even the best efforts of wildlife managers, biologists, and cavers have failed to prevent its spread from coast to coast.
At a time when WNS is forcing increased arousals and high mortality due to premature exhaustion of limited fat reserves, every possible precaution must be taken to minimize disturbance and restore the best possible hibernation conditions.
Colonial bats can harbor ectoparasites, from bat flies to mites, fleas, and even bed bugs. The good news is that most bat parasites are highly host-specific. Unless they’re starving, they much prefer to remain with their bat hosts. It may also be reassuring to know that disease transmission from bat parasites to humans is exceedingly rare, if it occurs at all. In fact, in a lifetime of studying bats, I’ve never heard of it.