The International Union for the Conservation of Nature currently lists 24 bat species as critically endangered, 53 as endangered and 104 vulnerable.
226 bat species are identified as “data deficient,” or not enough information available to determine their conservation status by the IUCN.
Of the 1,296 bat species assessed by the IUCN, about one-third is considered either threatened (vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered) or data deficient.
In Portage County alone, six bat species are considered a species of concern and one species is threatened.
Why is this? What could possibly be happening to bat species across the globe?
There are a series of causes, ranging from habitat destruction and illness.
Bats reproduce at a slow rate as females from most species give birth to only one pup a year. This makes population recovery difficult as declining numbers can only be seen until a population is at considerably low numbers.
Habitat loss is the greatest problem affecting bats. Deforestation takes away where bats roost and find food.
Guano mining, or harvesting bird and bat feces, drives bats away from hibernating in caves and mines. Guano was believed to be a valuable agricultural fertilizer in the 19th century which made the agriculture production boom.
If bats are awoken from hibernation, they can burn through their fat storage needed to stay alive throughout winter early on.
Fear regarding mythical views on “blood-sucking” bats also result in bat deaths, despite the fact that only three of the about 1,300 bat species rely on blood as a food source. Entire colonies of bats are routinely killed in Latin American due to the false belief that all bats are vampires in Latin America.
Bats are also hunted for meat and sport in certain Southeast Asian countries and Pacific islands.
One of the most detrimental causes of bat death in North America is due to white-nose syndrome. WNS afflicts hibernating bats with a fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans that leaves white fuzz on bats’ faces. The fungus causes bats to become active during their hibernation period, meaning they burn through their fat storage for their winter storage.
WNS was first seen in 2007 with the deaths of bats located in Albany, New York. Pd spores can linger on clothing and outdoor gear, so while people cannot get WNS, they can unknowingly spread it. The syndrome has killed millions of bats, and in some regions, it has killed 90 to 100 percent of bats.
There is no cure for WNS, but scientists are trying to find a way to control the powerful and dangerous disease.