Vermont bat populations show promising signs of species recovery

Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 9:57 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After years of seeing population and species decline, experts say the joint effort between conservationists and the citizens of Vermont is working to save certain species of bats in the state.

Experts say that species like the Indiana bat and the little brown bat were devastated by white nose syndrome, some species even experiencing 90% declines.

“The fungus likes living on the bat’s tissue and it makes them itch so instead of sleeping peacefully for the winter, they would itch and they wake up and scratch… by February they have used up their fat reserve and their body clock says it must be spring so they fly out of the caves in the middle of winter, no food no water and they freeze to death,” said Barry Genzlinger, a bat conservationist with the Vermont Bat Center.

But in recent years it seems that white nose syndrome may be having less of an effect on some populations.

“The great news is that a lot of them seem to have developed some type of tolerance to live with it and come out and maybe recover in the spring but not all of them do,” said Alyssa Bennett, a biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

From disease to climate change and habitat loss, the bats have a lot working against them but biologists say they have hope that populations in the state will continue to stabilize.

“Those are two endangered species so if you have an animal on the state endangered species list that’s because there’s really a concern that the animal is in danger of becoming extinct… so to go out there and count bats essentially at these locations and to see such big numbers are increasing and that’s very exciting,” said Bennett.

And experts say that the main takeaway from these findings is that conservation is working and that even the smallest gestures from people across the state can make big changes.

“I think Vermont really stands out just by sharing that interest and excitement about bats rather than the general fear and by sharing information you can help people get on the side of conservation,” said Bennett.

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