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Bat awareness in Connecticut

Tonight I saw my first little brown bat of 2012 flying around our front yard. Ironically, after searching the internet about bats, I learned that today was the International Bat Awareness Celebration at Beardsley Zoo, Connecticut’s only zoological garden. Fortunately, the celebration is extended through tomorrow between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm.

Little brown bat injected with White-nose syndrome
Credit: Al Hicks, NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Many people have a tendency to get overly concerned when seeing a bat because they associate the mammal with rabies. Though it is true that bats can be carriers of the disease, the likelihood of ever being bitten by a bat, let alone an infected one, is very rare especially since less than 1% of the bat population is infected. In fact, according to the DEEP website:

more people die annually from dog attacks, bee stings, lightning and household accidents than from bat-transmitted rabies.

Bats are very important to our environment because they help lower the mosquito population. One little brown bat can consume 1200 mosquitoes in one hour. Just imagine how many a cave of bats can consume in one night! In Connecticut there are 8 known bat species in which the little brown bat and big brown bat are the most common. However, throughout the world there are as many as 1,000 species of bats making them the most numerous mammal species on the planet.

Sadly, the bat population is in series jeopardy due to the disease white-nose syndrome. Research has finally revealed that the cold-faring fungus Geomyces destructans is the cause behind the syndrome which infects hibernating bats by growing a white fungus material around the bat’s face and wings. As a result, the mammal is forced out of hibernation early and ends up freezing or starving to death. Unfortunately, little else is known about the fungus or the syndrome and a cure right now is out of the question.

One report found online indicates that nearly 90% of the bat population in Connecticut has fallen as a result of this disease. According to the Bat Conservation International website, 5.7 million bats have died since the syndrome was first discovered in New York in 2006. The US Fish and Wildlife Service reported at the beginning of the year that 5.5 million bats died in North America alone. Therefore, we should not be afraid of a bat flying into our hair or giving us rabies but should be afraid of the mammal’s population becoming extinct in the state. Because without bats eating the mosquitoes; Connecticut residents may become at risk of infection with the West Nile virus.

Therefore, we should all start learning more about our bat friends and visiting Beardsley Zoo tomorrow will be a good start. For more information, please visit their website by following this link.


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