Give Bats a Break!
October is Bat Appreciation Month and this flighted group of mammals is worth appreciating! There are nine species of bat that call New York State home; 3 tree-dwelling species and 6 cave-dwelling. These flying friends are extremely important for ecosystem health because they feed solely on flying insects. The average adult bat can consume 20-50% of their body weight in insects each night! When insect numbers begin declining in the fall, the native bats either migrate south or go into hibernation. Of the hundreds of thousands of bats that hibernate in New York, the large majority do so in only 5 caves and mines and can cluster in groups of 300 individuals per square foot.
Unfortunately, four of our bat species are declining in number rapidly due to a mysterious disease called White-nose Syndrome. This fungus depletes the hibernating bats’ fat stores and forces it to wake early in search of food. Because they emerge before the weather has warmed up, they have difficulty finding food and usually end up succumbing to exposure or starvation. White-nose Syndrome was originally discovered in 2006 in a few caves in the eastern part of New York, but has since spread to 22 states and several Canadian provinces. With a 90% mortality rate, it is estimated that at least 5 million North American hibernating bats have died due to this disease. Though the Departments of Environmental Conservation across all affected states and many other bat specialists are working tirelessly, a definitive solution has not been found and many species could be facing extinction in the coming decades.
There are several ways you can help our native bat species from your own home! Avoiding pesticides in your yard creates better habitat for bats to hunt. Keeping your cat inside reduces predator interaction. During the fall, bats searching for a safe space to hibernate may make their way into your attic or out buildings. In this case, call a specialist to remove them to avoid harm to you or the bats. You can also install a bat house in your yard to encourage bats to roost in the area.
Check out this link on where to get bet houses and the best places to hang them!