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Modern Challenges for Bats

Like wildlife on a broader scale, bats have suffered a gradual loss of their natural habitats. Urbanized land is now the dominant land use type in New Jersey (Hasse & Lathrop 2010), leaving wildlife with fewer and more fragmented resources. Widespread use and prevalence of modern pesticides, detergents, antibacterials, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and other "contaminants of emerging concern" in our environment may be presenting new health consequences for bats as well (Secord et al. 2015).
White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease caused by the cold-loving, Eurasian fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd, has been devastating to bats since its arrival in North America in 2006. The fungus attacks bats during their delicate winter hibernation, when their immune response and other body functions are low. It invades their skin, causing dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, severe wing damage, and frequent arousals from torpor that cost them too much stored energy.

In many afflicted hibernacula, WNS has killed 90-100% of the bats. About six million bats across 31 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces have died so far (, accessed 10/6/2017), including tens of thousands from NJ. Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), Northern long-eared bats (M. septentrionalis), Tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus), and other small-bodied species have been especially hard hit.

Remains of bats from White-nose Syndrome
The tiny remains of bats that perished from White-nose Syndrome.
Click to enlarge
While White-nose is taking its toll on hibernating bats, wind energy development is having major impacts on migratory species. Bat deaths from wind turbines may exceed 600,000 per year (Hayes 2013) as Hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus), Eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis), Silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans), and others encounter wind farms along their long-distance migration routes. The tall towers may be attractive spots for resting and courtship (bats mate in the fall), or they may simply pique some bats' curiosity. Not only is there a risk of direct collision; the long, fast-spinning turbine blades create a pressure vortex that can burst a bat's lungs.

There are clear solutions to the wind energy problem, at least. Most bat conflicts happen during a protracted fall migration period, during low wind speed conditions when weather and temperature also favor bat activity. During a curtailment study at a wind farm in PA, as many as 93% fewer bats were killed when turbines were programmed to stop spinning at wind speeds below 6.5 meters per second, when bats are known to be most active (Arnett et al. 2011). Best management practices for bats now need to become industry standards.

Excellent bat habitat
Bats do best in healthy forests with clean water, diverse insect prey and ample roosting options.
Click to enlarge

Continue on to Bat Conservation in Winter
Back to Bat Conservation

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Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: November 8, 2017