As you celebrate Halloween today, take a minute to think about what makes this holiday so special—black cats, pumpkins, and, of course, bats!
There are many different theories as to why bats are associated with Halloween. One of the most common explanations is that people often built bonfires around Halloween to ward off evil spirits and warm people up. The bonfires' light attracted insects and their natural predators—bats. Another theory is that bats can indicate the presence of ghosts or spirits which, as we all know, are plentiful on Halloween!
Courtesy of the Fish and Wildlife Service
While the reason bats are connected with Halloween is disputed, the fact that this species is in grave trouble is not. Due to a disease called white-nose syndrome, bats have been dying by the hundreds of thousands, with whole hibernation caves wiped out in one winter. In fact, since white-nose syndrome was first documented in 2007, an estimated 80% of bats in infected caves have died in the Northeast, where white-nose syndrome has done the most damage. The rapidly-spreading fungus has now swept across 19 states, as far west as Oklahoma, and 4 Canadian provinces.
The aggressive fungus that causes white-nose syndrome attacks bats while they hibernate during the winter—burning holes in their wing membranes and leaving a white powder on the bats’ nose, giving this horrible disease its name. At least 9 species of bats have been found with white-nose syndrome and several are now likely to be in danger of extinction due to the disease.
In the five years since white-nose syndrome was first detected, scientists have been scrambling to learn more about the disease in an attempt to slow the mass die-off of bats. However, little money has been available to research this deadly epidemic. Additional funding dedicated to white-nose syndrome is critical to combating this growing problem. Further, spending money on bats now will pay off in the long-run, especially since bats help our economy by eating insects that destroy crops!
That’s why this Halloween we are asking the Obama administration to include funding for white-nose syndrome research and management in its FY13 budget. Please help make sure our message is heard by signing this petition on the White House’s website: http://wh.gov/TNK.