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Scientists race against illness that's killing bats
New York State wildlife technician Ryan von Linden visually examines a little brown bat before swabbing it for traces of white nose syndrome at an abandoned iron mine west of Ticonderoga on Oct. 1. "This used to be a fairly large site for little brown bats to hibernate," says von Linden. "These are nowhere near the numbers of bats that would have been here five years ago." According to Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist Joe Okoniewski, the little brown bat population is down by as much as 95 percent in some parts of the state, largely due to white nose syndrome.
Jeffrey Fehder

We have been reporting for a few years about the fungal disease that has wiped out most of the bats in the Northeast. Sadly, it sounds like the situation somehow continues to get worse, as the disease continues to spread west, with 32 states now seeing bats die from so-called "white-nose syndrome."

New Hampshire researchers released details of a count of hibernating bats from this past winter, and the devastation is getting worse each year.  One hibernaculum that held held more than 3,300 bats 10 winters ago held one single bat this past winter.

There has been some a bit of positive news in recent months, as researchers continue to look at how to possibly eradicate the fungus. This Sierra Club article explains some of the advances, and how it appears bats are adjusting to try to fight off the disease themselves.

Our region of the southern Adirondacks is loaded with caves and former mines where bats have long hibernated, and their populations have been all but wiped out as well, as North Country Public Radio's coverage details.

I used to love watching bats swooping down on insects as I fished at dusk in the summer; now, I can count the bats I see each summer on two hands, if I'm lucky.

The role of bats in the ecosystem can not be overemphasized, as they help keep many types of insects in check. At a time when diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes are major concerns, we need all the help we can get.

-- Don Lehman



Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on

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