"Science On Tap" Speaker Talks Bats And White Nose Syndrome

Dec 3, 2018

Brian Heeringa in a bat cave
Credit Science On Tap

The sharp decline of the populations of bats is one topic of the next Science on Tap presentation in Minocqua.

Brian Heeringa is the wildlife biologist for the Washburn Ranger District of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. He says the talk will look at the bat species here, how they interact with humans, what people can do to help bats, and the disease that is killing millions of them: white nose syndrome.

"White Nose Syndrome is viewed as one of the most devastating wildlife diseases out there. Using some of the numbers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came up with a few years back you can estimate that a million bats a year die of White Nose Syndrome..."

White-nose syndrome is a disease affecting hibernating bats and is caused by a fungus. It looks like a white fuzz on bats’ faces, which is how the disease got its name. The fungus causes changes in bats that make them become active more than usual and burn up fat they need to survive the winter.

Bats with white-nose syndrome may do strange things like fly outside in the daytime in the winter. Heeringa says there's a lot of research going on to determine where the fungus came from and other factors.

He says some bats are surviving and those bats could be key to future progress against the disease...

"the goal right now, is to give the bats time to hopefully adapt on their own. The best solution your could ask for is the animal itself develops and immunity to it and effectively combat the disease...."

He says bats play a vital role in the environment and also in agriculture. Herringa will speak Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Minocqua Brewing Company

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