As a result of White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a newly emerging fungal disease, more than five million cave and mine hibernating bats in the Northeast have died since 2007. Scientific models predict that the little brown bat may face extinction by 2026 if current trends continue, prompting the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct an official review to pursue listing northern long-eared and eastern small-footed bats, and consider emergency listing of little brown bats to the Endangered Species List.
Maine has eight bat species. Five species hibernate in mines or cave so are susceptible to WNS. These include the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), and tri-colored bat (Pipistrellus subflavus). The other three species hibernate in trees, including the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), and red bat (Lasiurus borealis).
WNS was discovered in several Maine hibernacula (bat colonies) in 2011. As a result of this finding, there is a great urgency to determine the status and health of Maine’s bat populations. Results from this project will not only help determine bat population status and trends in Maine, but will also be used to help determine status and population trends of bat species in the Northeast region.
In some areas of the country, especially in Appalachia, wind turbines have caused massive mortality events. We have not seen any large scale mortality events in Maine, but with wind-power projects continuing to increase on the landscape, both Maine Audubon and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are concerned about the potential for bat mortality and have suggested modifications to wind turbine operation to reduce this threat. Because bats appear to be especially attracted to turbines spinning at very low speeds, research raising the lowest speed at which blades spin has been shown to dramatically reduce bat mortality, especially if this operational “curtailment” occurs from a half hour before sunset to a half hour after sunrise.