NHPR’s weekly Something Wild segment looks at white-nose syndrome, which has devastated bats throughout the Northeast, including New Hampshire. (I haven’t seen a bat in my barn for more than five years.) You can listen to it here.
As I’ve noted here in the past, there is a tiny bit of room for optimism because a few populations of bats seem to be surviving through WNV – if for no other reason than they are bigger and greedier than most bats, so they start hibernation with more fat and can survive being occasionally awakened by the fungus throughout the food-less winter. Dave Anderson et al are encouraged by this possibilitiy in the NHPR piece … but then they hit us with a chunk of reality:
The few New Hampshire bats that are surviving this epidemic are passing whatever adaptation that has helped them to survive on their pups. So, potentially, we could look back on this situation from some future date and we’ll have healthy bat populations. Van Oettengin said it could take hundreds of years for such a rebound.” Hundreds of years? She explained that bats, like other long-lived mammals, don’t produce many offspring, usually just one or two pups per year. Considering normal mortality rates, it will take a good long while for bats to again reach their pre-WNS population.