6.09.2009

North American Bats at Risk


I can think of plenty of puns to go with this piece, but rather than reducing it to Jay Leno-monologue status we should take this problem seriously: 

A mysterious fungus attacking America's bats could spread nationwide within years and represents the most serious threat to wildlife in a century, experts warned Congress Thursday.

Displaying pictures of bats speckled with the white fungus that gave the disease its name — white-nose syndrome — experts described to two House subcommittees Thursday the horror of discovering caves where bats had been decimated by the disease.

As a state wildlife biologist from Vermont put it, one cave there was turned into a morgue, with bats freezing to death outside and so many carcasses littering the cave's floor the stench was too strong for researchers to enter.

They also warned that if nothing more is done to stop its spread, the fungus could strike caves and mines with some of the largest and most endangered populations of hibernating bats in the United States.

And in one particularly surprising example: 

"I went into a cave last spring and most damn near cried," [Marvin Moriarty, acting deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service] said in an interview after the House panel.

There were supposed to be 3,000 bats in the cave, the Greeley mine in Vermont. Moriarty and his colleagues could only find 33. 

"And I don't think a single bat was going to make it out of the cave."

Read the full Associated Press article here.

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