Fish & Wildlife created an assurance colony of bats in 2012 to protect them from WNS

Cold War bunkers offer bats refuge from killer disease

Bunker, Aroostook National Wildlife Reserve (Image: USFWS/Steve Agius)Cold War nuclear bunkers are being given a new lease of life, this time to protect bats against WNS

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Cold War nuclear bunkers are the latest attempt to safeguard US bat populations under attack from white-nose syndrome.
Scientists have converted two of the 43 bunkers at the former Loring Air Force Base, Maine, which has been a wildlife reserve since the mid-1990s.
The artificial hibernacula are designed to safeguard bats from the disease that was first recorded in the US in 2006.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) has killed up to an estimated 6.7 million bats so far and is continuing to spread.

White-nose syndrome

Little brown bat displaying symptoms of WNS (Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation)
  • WNS is associated with a fungus known asGeomyces destructans
  • Once present in a colony, WNS can wipe out the entire population
  • The disease, which appears to target hibernating species, was first reported in a cave in New York in February 2006
  • The most common visible symptom of an infected bat is a white fungus on the animal’s nose, but it can also appear on its wings, ears or tail
  • Other symptoms include weight loss and abnormal behaviour, such as flying in daylight or sub-zero temperatures
(Source: US Fish & Wildlife Service)
The disease, first described in a cave system in the state of New York, affects hibernating species is now found in 22 US states and five Canadian provinces.
The once secretive site in Maine, which was the closest US-based airbase to Moscow and a key asset for the US Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, was closed in 1994 before being reborn as the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge.
Steve Agius, the refuge’s assistant manager, said that staff felt the derelict grass-roofed bunkers had more potential ecologically than just offering nesting sites for sandpipers and sparrows.
“The bunkers remained a curiosity for years and biological staff speculated that perhaps the structures could provide overwintering hibernacula for bats,” he said.
The devastating impact of WNS on a growing number of US bat species led to the bunkers being assessed as potential winter homes for hibernating bats.
As a result, one of the bunkers was modified by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff, and 30 male little-brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) arrived at their new winter home in December 2012.
The bunker’s conversion included installing roosting places for the bats and CCTV to monitor the hibernating mammals.
Ann Froschauer, the USFWS WNS spokeswoman, explained the merits of using these artificial caves in the battle against the killer disease.
“One of the problems about WNS is that the fungus persists in the environment for an unknown amount of time and does not require bats as a host,” she explained.
“If there are no bats then the fungus goes back to doing its normal soil function, such as degrading organic matter. Then, if any new bats come into the area, they are exposed to it.”
Map showing the spread of WNS in the US/Canada (Image: BBC)

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.



About Mary Cummins Animal Advocates Real Estate Appraiser

Mary Cummins is President of Animal Advocates. She is licensed with the California Department of Fish & Game, USDA and the City of Los Angeles to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife. Cummins speaks to local community groups and students about respecting wildlife and humane wildlife control. She is also a Humane Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. She has written manuals on small mammal rehabilitation besides numerous articles. She was born and raised in Southern California. She attended Beverly Hills Good Shepherd Catholic School and Beverly Hills High School. Besides being a member of Junior Mensa and on the Dean's list, she was a top ten national swimmer and competed on the men's water polo team. She began college at the age of 15 attending the University of Southern California on scholarship, majoring in Psychology/Sociology. After college Cummins became a licensed real estate agent specializing in income property in Los Angeles. She obtained her real estate appraisal license, real estate brokerage license and currently does real estate consulting, expert witness testimony and review appraisals at Cummins Real Estate Services.
This entry was posted in assurance, bat, bats, colony, experts, fish, white nose syndrome, wildlife, wns. Bookmark the permalink.

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