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Environment & Energy

Federal Funds Will Help Pennsylvania Bats

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide additional funds to Pennsylvania for conservation planning for endangered bats on the state’s 3.8 million acres of public lands, bringing the federal total to $1.2 million dollars since 2012. 

A disease that disrupts hibernation has devastated bat populations in the northeast and spread to the Midwest.  

White nose syndrome is caused by a cold-loving fungus that afflicts bats when they hibernate.  They may leave their caves early, which depletes their fat reserves and leads to emaciation and death. There are estimates that mortality in the northeast is up to 80 percent.

Lora Zimmerman, Pennsylvania supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said habitat management is crucial to protect surviving bats, which are extremely important to agriculture because of the many insects they eat.  

"We've heard from several landowners that have put up bat boxes on their barns or have bats living in their barns that they've been able to significantly reduce the amount of pesticides that they've had to use on their ag lands," Zimmerman said.

While much more study is needed, Zimmerman said there are some hopeful anecdotal signs that bats are showing some resistance or adaptation to the disease.