Vermont bats were suffering a mystifying disease that’s afflicting Vermont bats in the Northeast has been found in another cave in Vermont. And Vermont officials say they’re concerned because that cave – Aoelus Cave in Dorset – is home to the largest population of hibernating bats in New England.
Thousands of Vermont bats have died in and around caves in Vermont, New York and Massachusetts. No one is sure what was causing the deaths. The affliction has been dubbed White Nose Syndrome because many of the Vermont bats have been found with a white fungus around their noses and mouths.
Vermont’s Scott Darling is a bat biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. He visited the Aoelus Cave last week and saw dead and weakened bats.
(Darling wrote) “This is afflicting the heart of our Vermont bat populations. And Vermont bats are long-lived species. They have very low reproductive rates of only one pup per year. So, with the prospects of 80-90 percent Vermont mortality, if in fact we continue to see this happen, it’s going to take a very long time for our Vermont bat population to rebound.”
Vermont cave enthusiasts are cooperating with wildlife officials. Vermont Cavers Association President Peter Youngbaer reported said the affected caves have been place off limits for now. Youngbaer, “Clearly, the Vermont bats are important. They’re important medically. They’re important for Vermont eating bugs and pollinating things and keeping that ecosystem going. With other pollinators, such as the bees, under stress recently, we have to watch all of this stuff.”
Vermont scientists are still researching what might be causing the Vermont bats to die. Vermont experts say this a critical time of the year for bats. They typically do not emerge from hibernation this time of year and if they do there’s no food for them to survive.