Virginia biologists looking for bat maternity colonies

If you literally have bats in your belfry, biologists from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries want to know about it. In order to study White Nose Syndrome, biologists are looking for bat maternity colonies.

White Nose Syndrome is an emerging disease that has killed more than 100,000 bats in the northeastern United States. WNS was discovered this past winter at several western Virginia caves and has the potential to wipe out bat populations in a significant part of the state.

As the top predators of night-flying insects, bats are an essential part of the ecosystem. They also save Virginians thousands of dollars annually by feeding on pest insects, reducing crop losses and lessening the need for agricultural pesticides.

To better understand and fight WNS, biologists are trying to identify summer bat roosts outside of caves. They are most interested in roosts for the Little Brown Bat, Myotis lucifugus.

Biologists are looking for maternity colonies, where bats raise their young. These colonies are often located in attics and barns or under bridges – anywhere high, hot, dark and dry that provides shelter from predators. Colonies may be home to a few dozen to several thousand bats. Studying the colonies will help biologists better understand and hopefully stop this disease. For more information on WNS visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bats/white-nose-syndrome/.

If you observe bats repeatedly emerging from a structure around dusk, it may be a maternity colony. Do not attempt to handle or capture bats. Please immediately contact DCR Natural Heritage Biologist Chris Hobson at 804.371.6202, VDGIF Wildlife Biologist Rick Reynolds at (540) 248-9386, or the Virginia Karst Program at (540) 394-2552 to report any such colonies. Summer bat colonies can also be reported via email to karstprogram@dcr.virginia.gov.



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