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.