I like bats. I don't want them flying around my home or anything, but I appreciate the fact that they exist, because they're interesting - how could a flying mammal that uses echolocation to interpret its surroundings not be interesting? - and because they eat mosquitoes.
My fondness for bats explains why I was so saddened when bats began dying due to a mysterious illness known as white nose syndrome. White nose syndrome was discovered in caves outside Albany, and eventually spread to 19 states and Canada. Nobody knew what caused it, but it was decimating the bat population.
A few years ago, I traveled to the Adirondacks with scientists who were capturing and releasing bats, recording information about them and looking for signs of white nose syndrome. I was there as a reporter, but I did end up helping out a bit, which might explain why I feel so concerned about bats, and don't want them to keep dying - once you've assisted scientists in taking a bat census, you feel invested in the future of the species.
Anyway, turns out there's some good bat news - a welcome development given how grim things have been. (Right now, statewide losses of the little brown bat are about 90 percent.) Researchers have revisited the caves where white nose syndrome was first detected, and report that the bat population has rebounded.
Here's an excerpt from the AP article:
"Figures released Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation showed notable increases in the number of little brown bats in three out of five upstate New York hibernation caves where scientists first noticed white nose decimating winter bat populations six years ago. The largest cave saw an increase from 1,496 little browns last year to 2,402 this winter.
There are hopes this is an early sign that bats can adapt to a disease that has spread to 19 states and Canada. But scientists caution it's far too early to tell if it is the start of a trend or a statistical blip.
'While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we fully know how to interpret this,' said Kathleen Moser, the agency's assistant commissioner of natural resources."
The hope, the article explains, is that the bats can adapt to white nose syndrome. Which is what I hope.
Click here to read the whole piece.