Bats keep dying in NJ: Why that’s bad news for people
New Jersey’s bat population has been all but eliminated by a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.
According to Stephanie Feigin, a wildlife ecologist with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, at least 90 percent of New Jersey’s bats have died off since 2009, and none of the state’s six cave-hibernating species are safe.
White-nose syndrome, which attacks hibernating bats, is a quick-moving disease that’s appeared in nearly 30 states and a number of Canadian provinces.
“Once one bat gets it and enters a cave or mine, we’ll lose about 90 percent of that cave or mine population in the first year,” Feigin said.
For example, New Jersey’s largest hibernaculum for bats, located in Hibernia, would typically host a population of approximately 20,000. The site’s latest census, Feigin said, counted 462.
And while many folks may view bats as the spookiest and most dangerous of the nighttime creatures, they’re actually one of the most beneficial to the human race, consuming a variety of insects from gypsy moths to mosquitoes.
A recent economic analysis suggested bats’ “insect suppression services” for U.S. agriculture can be valued at up to $50 billion per year.
Feigin said researchers are working hard to combat white-nose syndrome. The discovery of bacteria that attacks the fungus has led to the rehabilitation of some bats, but much more must be done before a “solution” can be declared.
“It’s a little daunting right now,” Feigin said. “It’s just spreading so quickly. It’s not an easy one to eradicate.”