Published Date: 2008-02-21 18:00:16
Subject: PRO/AH> White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (03): 2004 Dorset bat colony gate
Archive Number: 20080221.0709
WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME, BATS - USA (03): 2004 DORSET BAT COLONY GATE
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 23 Sep 2004
Source: The Nature Conservancy [edited]
[The following news item, published 23 Sep 2004, provides information
on the construction of a gate to protect the Dorset Bat Cave
hibernation site in Dorset, Vermont. - CopyEd.MSP]
The Nature Conservancy announced today [23 Sep 2004] the completion
of a new bat gate at Dorset Bat Cave, Mt Aeolus, just in time for the
peak bat swarm. With the assistance of volunteers, bat experts and
staff, over 5000 pounds of L-section iron was transported up a mile
of steep, rocky trail to the entrance of the cave.
"Cave gate design must allow for natural air movement and bat flight,
while controlling human access and resisting vandalism," said Rose
Paul, Director of Science and Stewardship at The Nature Conservancy.
"Much of the Dorset cave stays above freezing during the winter,
creating an ideal climate for hibernation, and it is one of only 4
hibernation sites in New England for the endangered Indiana bat."
As the Fall swarm reaches its peak in late September, thousands of
bats will emerge every evening to mate, teach their young how to find
the hibernation sites, and build up essential fat stores to survive
the winter. Measuring 22 feet wide by 13 feet high, the gate is
designed with minimal use of vertical supports to allow the unimpeded
flight of a large volume of bats.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service Private Stewardship Grant Program
awarded a USD 16 625 grant to help finance bat gate construction and
develop a cave management plan in conjunction with partners and
experts. The Nature Conservancy is actively raising private funds to
match the federal grant award.
The Dorset cave provides winter refuge to over 20 000 bats, including
the federally endangered Indiana, the state threatened Small Footed,
the Little Brown, Big Brown, Northern Long-Eared and Eastern
Pipistrelle. More than half of the 40 bat species found in the United
States are in severe decline or listed as endangered. Colonies found
at the edge of their range, such as the Indiana in Vermont, are
vitally important for genetic diversity and the survival of the species.
When I first got into caving, it never occurred to me that casual
visitors to a cave could easily kill off bats," said Jansen Cardy, a
caving enthusiast and volunteer for The Nature Conservancy. "With
proper management, recreational cavers and other legitimate groups
can still enter bat caves in the summer, but during the winter when
bats are vulnerable, human access is restricted."
Any human activity in or around caves can subtly alter the
temperature and humidity and rouse the bats from hibernation, causing
them to fly around and burn precious fat reserves. Pesticides and
other pollutants are also taking their toll on the bat population.
Pesticide residues are stored in fat tissue, and, when released in
concentrated amounts, can result in chronic or acute poisoning,
leading to a change in metabolism or even death.
Bats often incite mixed reactions from the people they encounter, but
they also provide important ecological services. Some 70 percent of
all bat species eat insects, with even small bats capable of eating
up to 1200 mosquitoes and other insects each night. With West Nile
virus cases expected to exceed last year's  numbers, bats
provide an under-appreciated service to outdoor enthusiasts and
reduce the need for farmers to use pesticides.
Protecting bat populations requires the conservation of both
subterranean winter hibernation sites and summer habitat in mature
forests and river-side corridors. Many bat species, including the
federally endangered Indiana bat, migrate to Vermont each summer and
form maternity colonies in the forests of the Champlain Valley. Over
the next 5 years, The Nature Conservancy will plant 19 000 trees,
grown from locally collected seeds, to begin restoration of summer
foraging habitat for bats along the Poultney and Mettowee rivers.
[The Dorset cave is only one of 4 hibernation sites for the Indiana
bat in New England, and, therefore, disturbance of the colony must be
kept to a minimum, especially in winter, i.e. now, with or without
the prevalence of this new disease syndrome. Fortunately, it seems
that a bat-friendly gate was erected in 2004. - Mod.MHJ]