About Them: These are some of the small brown bats that range the East Coast of the US. They are a species that is limited to small regions within of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. They have large ears that meet in the middle of their face making them look very gremlin like. Even still they are very cute. They can easily be confused with the Rafinesque’s big-eared bat. The difference is the Virginia’s has a darker overall coloring with a buffy chest and dark brown back.
Their plight: A few elements have caused this bat’s population to struggle. First is human disturbance. All cave dwelling species evolved to handle the quiet of a cave, this is a space with very low threshold for change. Human explored and they went spelunking just as if they were hiking. Unfortunately as cave system and the animals within are so sensitive unrestricted access is detrimental. If humans come into a cave while bats are hibernating or breeding the bats will flush causing them to use up their needed fat reserves to get them through the winter or drop their babies as they try to flee. This ultimately leads to bat death. Additionally White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that infects an ultimately kills bats while hibernating, has arrived in North America. It is believe it came from Europe off the uncleaned boot of a spelunker. The Bats in Europe evolved with this fungus and don’t see the wide mortality rates that the North American bats do.
What we should consider: This is the continued argument of “my freedom to do what I please” vs “health and safety of others and wildlife”. We humans have a lot of things we can imagine doing, driving really fast, exploring every space possible, building huge structures, but just because we can think of it doesn’t mean we should. Our actions have huge impacts on our world. What we leave behind even on a small scale can look like an apocalypse and feel like one to native species including other humans. We have evolved to be rational thinkers we should be able to realize where our limits need to be. We should also be able to accept that and not be resentful of animal species sharing this earth with us.
What is being done: Caves where these bats live have been closed to the public, some all of the time and some during the important times that need no disturbance. A small population has been taken into captive breeding to learn how to successfully have an insectivore that catches food in flight in captivity. They are presently on the Endangered Species List however, they are up for review to see if they can be delisted or downgraded as their population has seen some increase.
How to help: If you are a spelunker take the proper precautions between caves, clean your boots, clothes, and other gear before you enter a new cave. Pay attention to signs and fences that tell you when it not a good time to be entering caves.
Continue bringing awareness. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife, land, and waterways. Support locally.
Support can be:
- donating to science groups
- helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
- being a citizen scientist through
- land restoration project
- trash clean ups
- species counts
- bio blitzes
- getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.
Joining your local Audubon Society or other local conservation group is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.
Further Reading, my sources:
Sandra Markle. The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery. Millbrook Press. 2014.
[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]