The results of the winter survey of hibernating bats in New York are now available, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. This survey was a cooperative effort among state wildlife officials, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous volunteers to monitor the effects of white-nose disease, a fungal infection that has devastated regional bat populations since it was first documented in New York in 2006.
The most encouraging observations came from surveys of the five
hibernation caves in the greater Albany area where the disease was first
discovered. Previous reports have suggested that little brown bat
counts at these sites seem to be stabilizing in recent years. This
year's surveys saw substantial increases in little brown bats at three
out of five of these caves. The largest and best documented of these
sites saw an increase from 1,496 little brown bats in 2011 to 2,402 this
year. It is premature to conclude that population recovery is underway
for this species, however, because of the small number of hibernation
sites that have experienced increases and the fact that alternate
explanations are plausible. Bats are highly social animals and observed
increases could be the result of consolidation of individuals from other
hibernation sites, for example.
"While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some
species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we
fully know how to interpret this," said Kathleen Moser, DEC's Assistant
Commissioner of Natural Resources. "DEC is assisting in national bat
research and with those seeking solutions to the effects of the white
nose disease. As a preventative measure we can take now, we encourage
the public who enter caves recreationally, to refrain from entering
hibernation sites while bats are there."
Based on this year's survey, total observed declines in population
attributed to the disease for tri-colored bats have been revised upward.
Prior to the arrival of white-nose disease in 2007, a total of 2,285
tri-colored bats were counted at 37 representative hibernation sites in
the state. Since that time, a total of 112 bats were observed during
surveys of those same sites, suggesting a statewide decline of 95
percent for the species. Northern long-eared bats have also been
affected with a 98 percent observed decline (18 individuals observed in
36 sites compared to a pre-disease total of 911 bats at the same sites).
Although neither bat was considered a threatened species prior to the
arrival of white-nose disease, both species are now extremely rare in
No surveys were performed this year for the federal and state
endangered Indiana bat. Previous surveys indicate that losses for this
species have totaled 71 percent statewide (15,650 individuals remaining,
down from a high of 54,689). The population status of Indiana bats in
New York will be reassessed in 2013.
Records of small-footed bats, a rare species even prior to the
disease, show only a relatively small decline of 13 percent. This
species is difficult to count due to its secretive habits when
hibernating, but focused survey efforts this season have bolstered
previous observations that the impact of the disease is far less severe
for small-footed's than for most other hibernating bats.
Prior to the arrival of white-nose disease, the little brown bat was
the most common bat species in New York State and has been observed
hibernating in more than 100 caves and mines here. Statewide losses for
the species attributed to white-nose disease remain at approximately 90
For more information on white nose syndrome in New York, visit the DEC website.
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