[CWF PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM]
We’ve finished our fall field season and bat numbers are more depressing than ever. We saw just 39 bats in the 10 sites that we monitor in New Brunswick. This is down from 79 last winter and a huge decrease from the >7000 bats we counted in 2011. White-nose syndrome (WNS) is already evident on some of the bats, so I expect numbers will continue to decrease this winter. It is rather unbelievable how fast this decrease has occurred. Three of our sites had no bats at all and 2 others had just one bat each.
WNS continues to spread and suspect cases have been reported from Minnesota, meaning the disease is heading west. Western Canada has a greater diversity of bat species than Eastern Canada, and WNS could be devastating to these populations. Canada is expected to experience greater bat mortality due to WNS than the USA because of our longer winters and accompanying longer hibernation periods. Bats have to live on their fat reserves for longer periods of time without eating, making them more vulnerable. I hope, somehow, that WNS never makes it to the west!