It remains unclear whether the fungus is killing bats, an up-until-now unrecognized byproduct of cave hibernation, or a secondary opportunist attacking already weakened bats. Currently, the best WNS indicators are mass mortality, early emergence from hibernacula and erratic daytime flying.
An associated problem WNS causes in hibernacula occurs when movement by afflicted bats awakens healthy bats hibernating nearby. These repeated disturbances may cause healthy bats to draw from critical fat reserves they need to make it through winter. When a bat awakens from hibernation, its body temperature rises from around 45 degrees, to about 100, burning up considerable fat reserves unnecessarily. Awakened too often, a bat cannot sustain hibernation, and it will starve to death foraging for food on a winter landscape.
Wildlife managers investigating these unusual and desperate eruptions from hibernacula in New York and elsewhere haven't been able to pinpoint what is causing bats to behave so erratically. And now Game Commission bat biologists, regarded as one of the best management teams in the country, will get their chance to investigate this enigma.
WNS has drawn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's attention. The agency is working closely with the four states where WNS has appeared, as well as Pennsylvania and other New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Although the federal response isn't a red alert, there is great concern, because bats are so gregarious and often state-hop - wintering in one state, summering in another. This lifestyle increases the likelihood of contact with affected bats or sites, as well as the potential for huge losses among our bat populations.
"Our three possible sites will be monitored intensively t
|SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission|
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