Saturday, February 2, 2008

First bees, now bats?

There was a troubling AP story earlier this week about a mysterious disease that's killing bats as they hibernate. It's been spotted to the north of us, in Vermont and New York state.

Dubbed, for lack of a better name, "white nose syndrome," it has killed as many as 90 percent of the bats in some caves. The species hardest hit is what I think of as the "default bat" in our area, the little brown bat. It causes migrating bats to burn up their fat reserves long before they would ordinarily emerge from hibernation.

The bat infection has been compared to "colony collapse disorder," a viral infection that decimated honeybees in North America. If it's really that bad, it may well migrate south down the spine of the Appalachians in our direction.

This story jumped out at me because it was in the past year that a friend of mine told me about a mass bat die-off from a roost in a horse barn. At the time I suspected rabies, but could it have been white nose syndrome?

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