When I open the barn door and step into our little greenhouse, I gaze lovingly at the plants growing there. Then I get down to watering them with a yogurt container and a 5-gallon bucket.
I don’t pay attention to the concrete barn wall while I’m working. That’s why I got such a start last week when I looked up from watering baby spinach to find myself staring at a bat about a foot from my face.
My instant reaction was fear – not for me, but for the little bat. I was pleased to see it’s nose was not white, so it was probably still well.
I intend to put a bat house on the side of the barn. Bats are going to need all the help they can get. Here is advice on attracting bats compliments of the Milwaukee County Zoo. These little fellows can put a huge dent in the insect population. We often see them swooping about as evening draws on in the summer, but will they be there next summer?
The Chair of the Biology Department at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Jeff Huebschman, told me recently that he fears for Wisconsin’s bats.
A fast-moving fungus is sweeping the country right now. It has already decimated bat populations out east and is expected to infiltrate much of the Midwest and West this winter.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, white-nose syndrome was only discovered in February 2006 but already more than a million hibernating bats have died of it.
White-nose syndrome was discovered by a caver, and researchers fear the fungus is being spread by cavers. Caves are being closed to slow it down. The U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region has issued an emergency order closing caves and abandoned mines on national forests and national grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
If you do go into a cave, there are protocols to follow, and they involve heavy-duty products like Lysol All-Purpose Professional Cleaner or boiling for 15 minutes. Check it out here.
I was going to end on a hopeful note, Popular Science online reported today, “Bat Conference, Day 1: Students Rush to Front Lines in Battle to Save Bats.
Then I prowled on to a previous article on white-nose in Popular Science called “Racing to Save Bats From Catastrophic Extinction, Biologists Turn to New Tools.”
The article was sobering in itself, but if you really want a glimpse into the minds of those who just voted in all those folks who feel they can pick and chose which branch of science to “believe” — just check out about half of the comments in response to this article. Oh my!
Little Brown Bat, keep on flying.