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Bats Brought to Maine in Experiment to Survive White-Nose Syndrome
04/10/2013   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Scientists working to help bats survive a devastating disease known as white nose syndrome that has decimated populations in the Northeast and beyond say a number of infected bats spent the winter in an abandoned Maine bunker. In an experiment aimed at finding alternative strategies for saving them, 30 little brown bats were taken from caves in Vermont and New York and transported to the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Limestone, Maine. And as Susan Sharon reports, the experiment shows early signs of success.

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For more than two years, scientists have been trying to think of ways to save crashing populations of bat species, including decontaminating large caves known as hibernacula, sterilizing them or captively rearing them.

But captive rearing for a migrating mammal with a unique habitat that also hibernates is a challenge. Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge Assistant Manager Steve Agius says the bunkers have ideal conditions that are suitable for bats.

"They hold temperatures between 37 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity generally is greater than 95 percent," he says. "So we contacted a number of state agencies - New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine - inquiring if they would be interested in the project. And, unfortunately, because so many states have lost so many bats from natural hibernacula, only Vermont and New York were able to commit to giving us bats for the project."

Of the 30 bats donated for the project, nine survived the winter. They were then transported back to Vermont and New York and released into the wild last week. Agius says scientists hope to improve those odds in the future.


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