|Bat – Mary Cummins Animal Advocates
Recently more live bats have been found in the caves where the fungus was first found in the US in 2006. Initially the fungus wiped out most of the population of bats in these caves. This could be a sign that some bats are now immune to the fungus and/or disease.
“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.”
Today we received word that gray bats were found with the fungus and disease but no mortality was found.
“Biologists in Hawkins and Montgomery counties in Tennessee recently discovered several gray bats (also known as gray myotis) with the white fungus that causes WNS on their muzzles, wings and tail membranes. The fungus – but not the disease – was first reported on gray bats in 2010. Today, the disease itself was confirmed by laboratory tests. No WNS mortality was found, however. Biologists have no clear explanation for that, but they are holding their collective breath to see what develops.”
This could mean that US bats have evolved an immunological or behavioral resistance to the fungus. If this is true, then hopefully eventually most hibernating bats can also evolve a resistance to the fungus as the European bats have done many years ago. If we knew the exact type of resistance that evolved, maybe we could even speed up the process to help save more bats.
I remember when West Nile Virus hit crows and squirrels in New York in 1999. It took a few years but West Nile Virus eventually made it to California. The first year all the squirrels and crows died. Second year half died, half survived but had major neurological damage. The third year they all survived and could be released. We didn’t get in any more WNV squirrels after the third year. Mind you WNV is a flavivirus that came from Eastern Africa. It is not a fungus. Our tree squirrels also have two litters a year of 1-5 squirrels. Most hibernating bats only have one litter per year with one pup. They may not be able to adapt as quickly as tree squirrels.
I predict that most bats in the US will evolve an immunological or behavioral resistance to the fugus or disease just as the European bats have done. Some species of hibernating bats may be lost. Animals are very adaptive. I can only hope that I’m right.
*Never touch a bat with your bare hand. Always wear gloves if you must handle a bat.