Nothing to look at, move along

The Associated Press: Why Are Thousands of Bats Dying in NY?:

“White nose syndrome,” as the killer has been dubbed, is spreading at an alarming rate, with researchers calling it the gravest threat in memory to bats in the U.S. “This is definitely unprecedented,” said Lori Pruitt, an endangered-species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bloomington, Ind. “The hugest concern at this point is that we do not know what it is.” A significant loss of bats is chilling in itself to wildlife experts. But — like the mysterious mass die-offs around the country of bees that pollinate all sorts of vital fruits and vegetables — the bat deaths could have economic implications. Bats feed on insects that can damage dozens of crops, including wheat and apples.

New York officials are asking people to stay out of bat caves in case humans are unwittingly spreading the problem. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking people not to enter caves with gear or clothing used in any New York and Vermont cave within the past two years. The first inkling of trouble came in January 2007, when a cave explorer spotted an unusual number of bat carcasses around the mouth of a cave in the hills west of Albany. Within a month, people in the area were calling in with reports of bats flying outside in the middle of the day. “We didn’t know anything other than bats were coming out and they were just dying on the landscape,” Hicks said. “They were crashing into snow banks, crawling into wood piles and dying.”

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