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Oklahoma Bats Dying

Bat showing symptoms of White-nose Syndrome

Across 28 affected U.S. states, an estimated 10 million bats have died because of a deadly white fungus associated with White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). In the last couple years it has been determined that the deadly disease has spread to the state of Oklahoma and the result could be devastating to the State’s bat population.

White-Nose Syndrome In Oklahoma

In May of 2010 disease surveillance discovered the presence of the white fungus associated with White-Nose Syndrome in northwest Oklahoma. Since then, the disease has spread throughout much of the state. This is very bad news for the 23 different species of bat that call Oklahoma their home. It’s important to note that WNS only affects hibernating bats; as 16 of the 23 species of Oklahoma bat are classified as hibernating.

White-Nose Syndrome affects hibernating bats by covering them with a white, fuzzy fungus. This fungus will alter the bat’s hibernation schedule, causing them to awake during the colder winter months in which they should be preserving their energy. The affected bats essentially burn through all of their energy reserves too early, before they can hunt for insect prey, and die of starvation. The white fungus can also spread to a bat’s wing membranes, and bodies, affecting their ability to fly, regulate body temperature, and blood pressure.

The hardest hit bat in Oklahoma is by far, the Cave Myotis. Other species of bat that scientists are extremely concerned about include: the Indiana bat, the Gray bat and the Ozark big-eared bat because they are considered federally endangered. At this time it is unknown how many bats have perished in the State of Oklahoma, but across the 28 affected U.S. states; it’s feared that the number of dead bats is approaching the 10 million mark.

The Importance Of Oklahoma Bats

Most of us in Oklahoma think of bats as rabid, blood-sucking, creepy, devil birds. The truth is that bats play massive roles to our ecosystem; resulting in a highly beneficial economic role as well. Bats in Oklahoma eat thousands of pounds of insects each year. Some of these insects are considered pests; damaging crops, and causing extensive agricultural damage. In Oklahoma, the avoided-cost value of bats (reduced cost of pesticide application) is estimated to range from $6 million to $24 million per year.

Saving Oklahoma Bats

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and other state authorities are well aware of the White-Nose Syndrome threat and have put together an Oklahoma bat coordinating team. This team’s goal is to educate the public about WNS, monitor Oklahoma caves, help stop the spread of WNS, and eventually find a cure to the deadly bat-killing disease. There is currently no cure.

You can do your part to help stop the spread of WNS by engaging in a decontaminating protocol, outlined here whitenosesyndrome.org, while spelunking and exploring caves. Do not touch any bat you find inside a cave, whether dead or alive.

Report any signs of WNS, like sighting several dead bats or seeing bats with white fuzz, to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation as soon as possible: mhickman@zoo.odwc.state.ok.us or (405-990-4977).

About the Author:

Anthony Ball is a Content Marketing Manager with Bulwark Exterminating, an industry leader in providing high quality pest control services in Tulsa, OK. Bulwark is fully operational in seven states, including twelve major cities. While Bulwark provides pest extermination for common insects such as ants, roaches, crickets and spiders, the company’s differentiating aspect is great personalized service. Bulwark uses the finest and most effective products in the world to solve common pest problems.

 

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August 16, 2013 - 4:55 PM No Comments
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