ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Like skeletons, ghosts and creepy cobwebs, bats are a synonymous part of Halloween. Next week, they’re also in the spotlight for a state week encouraging people to take care around their nocturnal friends.
“Bat Week” runs from Oct. 24-31 in New York. It’s a chance to learn more about threats to bat species. One of those is white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed more than 90 percent of the state’s bat population.
“Bats play an important role in our environment, helping control insect populations,” said DEC commissioner Basil Seggos. “With Halloween on people’s minds, DEC is urging outdoor adventurers to protect New York’s bats by avoiding caves and mines altogether. Even the quietest cave visits will disturb bats hunkering down for the winter.”
The DEC has put out a call to keep outdoor adventurers out of bat habitats as they enter hibernation. Starting in the fall and continuing into the winter, human visitation in caves and mines can disturb bats in their “hibernacula” sleeping spots. Awakening during hibernation raises bat body temperatures, causing them to burn through the body fat reserves that serve as their only energy source until spring brings their insect population prey back around. Enough disturbance can make bats unlikely to survive until spring.
Scientists at least one bat species is on the rebound. The little brown bat has shown evidence of numbers increasing again, a light of hope after a solid decade of population decline. Other species have not yet shown similar results.
Currently, the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat are both listed as endangered species – the former statewide and federally, and the latter only in New York. The tri-colored bat has been proposed for endangered species classification this past September. The long-eared species has seen an especially dire dropoff, plummeting to around 1% of where it once was.
Anyone hoping to explore a mine or cave this fall or winter should keep an eye out for signage indicating bat populations. If an explorer does come across sleeping bats, they should leave as quickly and quietly as possible in order to minimize disturbance.