As we approach Halloween you have probably noticed bats everywhere. They are carved into pumpkins, shaped into cookies and decorating cereal boxes. But you probably won’t see bats in the skies this Halloween, as they are getting ready for winter.
There are eight species of bats that occur in Maine, but this is the time of year they disappear from our skies. Three of the eight species are called ‘tree bats’ and will migrate south for the winter, while the other five species stay in Maine year round by hibernating during the cold months. The locations they stay in, called a hibernacula, are usually abandoned mines or caves. Occasionally, bats are found inside houses and Bat Conservation International provides these helpful instructions if there’s a bat in your house.
The other reason you may not see bats on Halloween is a scary one: they really are disappearing. A disease called White-Nose Syndrome has been spreading in caves across the United States, causing high mortality in bats. An estimated 5.7 million bats have died from contracting the disease. White-Nose Syndrome was first detected in a New York cave in 2006 and was confirmed in Maine for the first time in 2010. Below is a map, updated in September, of all the locations where White-Nose is present.
As a result of these steep declines in their population, three species of bats have been proposed listing under the Maine Endangered Species Act. That press release is available here. There are lots of resources available online for you to learn more about bats and how you can help them. A great place to start is this Bat House Builder’s Handbook, and this manual from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: a Homeowner’s Guide to Bats.
A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.