News & Notes

Maine’s Struggling Bats – Part One

Thursday, October 1st, 2015
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With Halloween coming up in a few weeks, October is a great time to talk about bats. Our furry, flying friends are in trouble. Following is part one of a series on bats we are featuring this month. Please read and share – fostering an appreciation for bats will do wonders to help make their conservation and protection a priority.

- Doug

The following article appears in the fall issue of Habitat, Maine Audubon’s member newsletter. Interested in receiving Habitat in the mail? Join us today!

Maine’s Struggling Bats

A bat with White Nose Syndrome. The fungus has wiped out close to 6 million bats in the northeastern United States alone.

A bat with White Nose Syndrome. The fungus has wiped out close to 6 million bats in the northeastern United States alone.

It’s been a tough few years for bats. While bats have always had a public relations problem (they are not the rabies-infested vampires portrayed in popular culture) they have been struggling lately with much more serious issues. White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease caused by a cold-tolerant fungus was first documented in New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and has since decimated populations of cave bats in Maine and over 5.7 million bats across the Northeast.

There is also increasing evidence that wind turbines kill tree bats during the breeding season and migration. Bats are attracted to slow moving wind turbine blades, but no one is sure why. Three migratory species – the hoary bat, the Eastern red bat and the silver-haired bat – make up the majority of bat species killed each year at wind farms across the country.

Despite these challenges for bats, there is some encouraging news for Maine’s favorite (and only!) flying mammals. The Northern long-eared bat was listed this year as a federally threatened species. The listing triggers new efforts to protect its breeding habitat and roost trees by creating new guidelines for road work and logging, and funding much needed research efforts.

At the state level, the Northern long-eared bat and the little brown bat have been listed as endangered species and the Eastern small footed bat has been added to the threatened list. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is charged with protecting these rare species and is working on education and outreach efforts, as well as guidance for homeowners, contractors and forest professionals who encounter bats and bat habitat.

While adding wildlife to the endangered and threatened list is never good news for the species, it does mean that they (and their habitats) will get additional protection – and a healthy dose of education and outreach that is desperately needed to help increase the bat population.

What bats live in Maine? Find out in our next post! 

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

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.

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