No More Bats To Watch

No More Bats To Watch

It’s not fun, it’s not happy, it’s not even news. Our bats are dying. They are disappearing in numbers that should shock you! Devil’s Lake State Park can no longer hold bat watches because in just one year, from one season to the next, there are now no more bats to watch.

Not all bats are disappearing. White-nose syndrome, hits cave bats which are about half of our native species in Wisconsin. For these species, such as the little brown bats we’ve watched for years at Devil’s Lake State Park, this wildfire disease is nearly an extinction event. Over last winter in Wisconsin these guys have suffered a 60-100% die off. Here at our local bat house (One of two summer colonies on the park’s north shore), where researchers counted over 200 individuals last year, we counted 17 this year.

Let that sink in.

I personally have participated in 2 bat hike events so far this year. One along Devil’s Lake’s north shore and another at Ableman’s Gorge SNA earlier this year.  These have always been bat-filled locations. The skies just last year were loaded with little brown bats picking off mosquitos and other insects in the twilight sky. This year the air was quiet. At Devil’s Lake we literally only visually saw one little brown bat, whereas the bat detectors that can pick them up even if we don’t see them, caught less than 10 bats. This includes non-cave dwelling species.

There are simply not enough bats for Devil’s Lake’s Lawn Chair Bat Watches this summer. There will be bat hikes, but now you have to go looking.. the idea of simply sitting in a chair and watching streams of bats leaving their homes each evening, something that even last year was taken for granted, is now filed as “history”.

Unless you live under a quartzite boulder, you know that our natural world is changing. Animals are dying from bats to bees. The climate is changing. Invasive plants are rolling through our forests like a rogue wave. Heck, even our trees are slowly running away! It seems only mosquitos and ticks will be the beneficiaries. This human-caused mix of environmental impacts and climate change are creating an extinction event that is part of what scientists are calling the Holocene Epoch. Frankly, it often seems too big for us to get a handle on, something too nebulous to comprehend or connect to in a personal way. What more can we do but flip past another article on Facebook, sip our coffee and get ready for work?

But here it is. It’s ominous and yeah, a little scary. Last year, right here at Devil’s Lake State Park, we had lots of little brown bats. People came by the hundreds and watched them with their families. One winter passes and for all intents and purposes, those bats are gone. Dead.

While white-nosed syndrome is not directly related to climate change, it is a canary in the Holocene coal mine. Our scientists are telling us, this is just the beginning.

***Obligatory Disclaimer:  This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 




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  1. maryw

    jmo,,,,,i think the west nile virus has done more damage then anyone every imagined,,We use to have 6 to 10 barn swallow’s,,,,,we have 2,,,,,we use to have bats here at night,,,,,NONE,,,, this year,,,We had horse die from what I believed was west nile,,,that’s a 1200 pound animal,,,,imagen what it would due to a species as small as a bat,,or a bird,,,we use to have a lot of coons,,,,,1/2 are gone..Our neighborhood has not changed in 25 years,,,we have acreek running thru oyur property,,thus more mosquito’s,,,Our bees are gone essentially,,,our lilacs use to hummmmmmm,,,,,nothing,,maybe 3 bees..We talk to man who sold honey,,,,he lost 2 of his 3 colonies to the lovely bayer genocide,,Our little 22 acres we try to always plant trees,,,,not cut any trees,,,We have no-more ground hogs,,,,We lost a doe here,,that gave us twins every year for 10 years,,,a poucher took her out 2 years ago,,I can tell,,,all her deer paths thru our woods,,,have grown over,,,no twins since her murder,,,,,,,jmo,,,maryw

  2. Linda COntreras

    This makes me so sad! What are we leaving for our children and grandchildren. Or for that fact out great-great grandchildren?? Natives used to look seven generations ahead before doing anything to the environment. Maybe we should have listened,huh? They will have to google bats or bees or even birds to see what they looked like. If they themselves survive what is happening. How people can believe there is no global warming is beyond me. But I guess money is more important. At least until it starts affecting humans, then we will see a different opinion. Maybe they can plant their money and see what happens. Very, very sad!!

    1. Author

      I always remember this from Neil de Grasse Tyson, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

  3. Jeff Neumann

    I just read about white nose syndrome. It’s a fungus that prefers temperatures between 39 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. It can not survive above 68 degrees. Nothing suggests global warming brought about this disease. It has always been somewhere in the world. It was first found in New York which suggests it probably came by freight shipped from overseas. Our caves in the US which is where the fungus thrives are always in their temperature sweet spot. Most underground caves are about 55 degrees year round. I am sick of reading about global warming as the cause for everything. This disease is a tragedy for bats. Man is the cause of it being in the US but not because we have heated up the planet. The fungi managed to be carried here by some freight.

    1. Author

      Hey Jeff, Thank you for your commentary. Had you read the post you would have read; “white-nosed syndrome is not directly related to climate change”.

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