Archive for the 'Bats' Category

How White Nose Syndrome Kills Bats

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
Checking caves for White Nose Syndrome

Checking caves for White Nose Syndrome, Photo © Mylea Bayless, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org

This is Passport to Texas

White nose syndrome is a fungal disease that attacks hibernating bats.

So, the way that white nose hurts them and is fatal to them is by irritating their skin while they’re hibernating.

Jonah Evans is a mammologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. A skin irritation doesn’t sound fatal, but expending energy reserves is.

Hibernation for a bat is a very narrow budget of energy that they’re trying to make last for many months. And the process of waking up, cleaning off your wings, and fidgeting around a little bit, burns off critical energy—and the result is starvation. They’re just not able to make it through hibernation.

It seems not all bats are affected by White Nose Syndrome even if infected.

If a bat does not hibernate, it means that bat is active all winter long. Some of those stay here in the southern part of the state, but other ones migrate down to Mexico and Central America. And even if those bats get the disease, because they’re active year round, there’s hope that they’ll be constantly replenishing their calories and they won’t perish because of the disease.

Mexican free-tailed bats—the ones in the big caves in Texas—are migratory. Currently, Texas is White Nose Syndrome free. Yet, as a priority species researchers are doing what they can to understand the issue and to develop a management plan should it come to our state.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Bat Killing Disease Flanking Texas

Monday, November 7th, 2016
White Nose Syndrome, Photo: USFWS

White Nose Syndrome, Photo: USFWS

This is Passport to Texas

Discovered 10 years ago in upstate New York, white nose syndrome—a fungal disease that kills hibernating bats—traveled a predictable path.

For the previous 10 years it has spread incrementally. From New York State to the neighboring states; one step at a time in a very predictable way. And then, all of a sudden to have it show up in Washington State was out of sequence.

Jonah Evans is a mammologist with TPW. This year’s discovery in Washington State is the first recorded occurrence of WNS in western North America. Prior to that, researchers predicted the disease would eventually reach the western states by way of the Texas Panhandle.

In some ways I like to think of it as the enemy has flanked us. We had clear battle lines drawn. We knew which direction the enemy was advancing. And all of a sudden, it’s coming from behind us as well. It’s definitely not encouraging. It’s actually quite alarming in the bat and white nose research communities.

While researchers do not know for sure how the disease got to Washington, many suspect it may have been transported by people. So, prevention starts with cavers.

Especially people who are frequent cavers who might go from one spot to another and then travel to another state, and go into multiple caves. We’re really encouraging caving communities and other people going into caves to be really cautious and to use decontamination whenever they can.

Find a link to decontamination protocols at passporttotexas.org.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Busting Myths About Bats

Friday, November 4th, 2016
Bats at Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area.

Bats at Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area.

This is Passport to Texas

Bat have been maligned for centuries.

Most people don’t know anything about them because they don’t have any interaction with them.

Fran Hutchins is with Bat Conservation International.

People know a lot about birds, and most people aren’t afraid of birds because they see ‘em all day long. Bats are flying around at night when most of us are home sleeping. And unless we see ‘em around a street light or dipping down into somebody’s swimming poll to get a drink of water—most people don’t have any contact with bats. So, what they know about them is what they’ve seen on TV. And most of the time on TV—especially if it’s Hollywood—they’re bloodsucking monsters that are flying in and dragging someone off into the tree line and sucking them dry.

There are no blood sucking bats in Texas. And of the 1300 bat species worldwide, Hutchins says only three feed on blood.

The rest of them are insect eating bats and pollinating bats, and fruit bats that are really important to us.

Hutchins adds bats are not blind, they won’t tangle up in your hair, and they do not carry rabies.

People think all bats have rabies—and they don’t. Rabies is a virus that’s out there in the environment that bats, as mammals, can get as we do. They’re not carriers. If a bat gets sick with rabies, it dies.

That’s why we never handle bats that are on the ground. They could be sick. Other than that—they are beneficial mammals that deserve our respect.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Merlin Tuttle is Batman

Monday, October 19th, 2015
Merlin showing free-tailed bat to visitors at Bracken Cave during a National Public Radio interview. Media

Merlin showing free-tailed bat to visitors at Bracken Cave.


This is Passport to Texas

Merlin Tuttle was a curious kid destined to become a scientist. He lived near a bat cave in high school and started making observations.

13- I found that the bats came in the spring and the fall, but were not there any other time of year. Yet, when I identified them, the field guides that I had said that this species of bat lived in one cave year round.

He wanted this misinformation corrected.

16-So, I caught some. I actually made specimens of a couple of them so that I could prove that I had what I said I had. And convinced my mother, just as a teenager, to drive me to the Smithsonian so I could tell the guys that wrote the books that there was something wrong.

So began a 55 year career that’s taken Dr. Tuttle around the world studying bats. He’s engages in hands on conservation and public education. One goal: remove the public’s fear of bats.

26-People hear that bats are dangerous–they’re going to cause you to get sick with some terrible malady. But in reality, bats have one of the finest safety records of any animal on our planet of living safely with humans. People like me, I’ve studies bats for 55 years now on every continent where they exist, spending literally hundreds if not thousands of hours actually in caves surrounded by millions of bats. And I’m still healthy!

Merlin Tuttle’s written about his life with bats in THE SECRET LIVES OF BATS: My Adventures with the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammals. It comes out this week.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.