Little Brown Bat Removal and Control, Little Brown Bat Information

Little Brown Bat Removal & Control – Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia

little brown bat removal and controlBats in your attic? Bats in vents? Bat in the house? Call our BAT REMOVAL EXPERTS at (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975. Little Brown bat removal and control is a specialized service that should only be performed by a professional bat control expert in Virginia that has specific knowledge of the Little Brown bat and Big Brown bat. If you’ve had a bat or two appear in your house, or if you’re hearing noises you suspect are made by bats, a little bit of investigation will go a long way. Depending on the time of year, it may be an isolated incident, or evidence of a resident maternity colony; here’s how to tell the difference, and how to proceed in either case.

Little Brown bats are sometimes mistaken for late-flying butterflies when they leave their roosts before sundown, due to their very small size and erratic flight patterns. Little Brown bats require a nearby, ready source of water, such as a lake, stream, or even a swimming pool.

Little Brown bats do form maternity colonies, but pregnant solitary females have also been found. Little Brown bats generally have one pup (offspring) per year. Little Brown bats can often be found roosting in attics during the day. Little Brown bats do not seem to migrate far and may stay in the same area year round. They probably hibernate in mines and caves during winter. They are also known to roost in buildings or attics if conditions are suitable.

Hearing Noises? Identifying the Culprit as Little Brown Bats
First of all, is essential to verify that a nuisance is caused by bats, and not some other animal. Scrambling, scratching, and thumping sounds coming from attics and walls may be caused by rats, mice, or flying squirrels. Twittering and rustling sounds in old chimneys, often attributed to bats, may be caused by chimney swifts. Bats often become noisy before leaving their roosts at sunset and may chatter on hot days when they move down attic walls to seek refuge from heat. Thus, an increase in chirping noises about dusk probably indicates bats.

Here’s when you pull out the lawn chairs, lemonade, and bug repellent, and sit outside to watch your house around sunset time. If the “bats” swarm and enter the chimney at dusk, most likely these are swifts; a chimney cap will go a long way towards dealing with that problem. Bats will be seen leaving 15-45 minutes after sunset in midsummer. Make note of all the exits the bats are using, and make an approximate count of about how many bats you have (this is important for setting up bat boxes later on). During daylight hours, look for dark staining or smudges along the roofline; these may be places where bats are entering the building, where the oils in the bats’ fur has rubbed off.

Little Brown Bats in Early Fall
The discovery of one or two bats in a house is probably the most frequent problem. Little Brown bats may enter homes through open windows and doors, but may use any crevice it can find. This usually occurs in the early fall when bats are checking for potential roost or hibernation sites. Little Brown bats may also appear in midwinter during a warm weather spell.

Little Brown Bat Appearances in Mid to Late Summer
Repeated occurrences of Little Brown bats in your living spaces in mid to late summer suggest that a maternity colony is close by, most likely in the attic. As juvenile bats begin fending for themselves and exploring, one may explore its way into your living room. The presence of any bat in your living spaces is purely accidental; it is often a simple matter to allow it to escape.

Letting Them Out, Little Brown Bat Exclusion
Any bat will usually find its own way out; jut open all windows and doors leading to the outside. Bats usually will not attack a person even if chased. Never swat or throw things at the bat, or run around waving. All this tends to do is confuse the bat and leave you exhausted. Above all else, calmly watch the bat to make sure it leaves. If the bat refuses to leave, it will calm down and land on something. Drapes and hanging clothes seem to be the preferred rest areas. Place a small box or can over the bat, then gently slide thin cardboard under the “trap” to collect your bat, then release it outside. At last resort, local health authorities can be called to collect the bat, though this may result in its demise. If the bat, or any wild animal, has come in contact with pets, children, handicapped individuals, etc. contact your local health department. Health department recommendations vary from state to state.

The Solution, A Little Brown Bat Exclusion
These are animals that can hone in on a single mosquito flying through the air; a ½ inch crack in the side of a house is easy for them to find.

Professional Measures
If you are dealing with bats in your home, there are several ways a professional bat abatement company can help. Look for a company like Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, LLC (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975 who:
· Has years of experience finding all the tiny entrances bats use to enter and exit a structure, and in sealing up those gaps.
· Can quickly and efficiently clean up accumulated bat guano and urine, which poses a significant health risk if not dealt with properly.

What To Look For In A Virginia Nuisance Animal Wildlife Removal And Control Company

Wildlife removal is our specialty. If you are in need of a company in the Richmond or Charlottesville Virginia areas to provide nuisance animal wildlife removal services there are certain things to consider. First, there are two types of companies out there, pest control operators (PCOs) and wildlife control operators (WCOs). Pest control operators (PCOs) are your typical companies that handle bugs, mice and rats. On the other hand, most wildlife control operators (WCOs) do not handle insects, mice and rats–they only handle wildlife. With us, your in luck. We are a dual licensed company capable of providing wildlife removal and pest control services.

Because of the current economy, some pest control companies are attempting to offer wildlife removal services. Unfortunately, most neither have the necessary training, experience and proper state licensing. You would not hire a plumber to repair the wiring in your home or an electrician to do your plumbing. Likewise, you should not hire a bug control company to solve your nuisance wildlife problem. When searching for a company to solve your nuisance animal wildlife problems in the Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia areas or elsewhere, the company you hire should have at a minimum three things:

1. A local business license,
2. Commercial liability insurance, and
3. A Commercial Nuisance Animal Permit – Issued By The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

A company CANNOT get one permit to cover all employees. Each employee is required to have their own permit.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for references. Just because a company has the three items listed above is no guarantee that they have the knowledge, skills and abilities to solve your Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia nuisance animal wildlife problem. Wildlife control operators do not necessarily consider themselves as trappers. While trapping animals is part of the job, we are problem solvers. No two nuisance animal wildlife problems are the same, and some animal species are extremely unique and are difficult for even the most experienced wildlife control operator (WCO). We tell our customers that the only certainty with nuisance animal wildlife is their uncertainty and unpredictability.

If you live in the Richmond or Charlottesville Virginia area and need a company with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and professionalism to handle your nuisance animal wildlife problem contact Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, LLC at (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975. We offer the humane and efficient removal of ALL types of animal wildlife. Some of the animals we handle include, but are not limited to: bats, birds, beavers, squirrels, raccoons, snakes, skunks, opossums, groundhogs, moles, voles, foxes, coyotes, muskrats and turtles. Feel free to call us with any of your Richmond or Charlottesville VA animal wildlife problems. If you don’t own a home or business in our service area, we have a network of other wildlife control operators across Virginia that we know and trust that can help you.

We provide residential, commercial and industrial animal trapping, wildlife removal, animal control and wildlife exclusion services 24/7 in the Richmond VA and Charlottesville VA areas and our work is guaranteed!

Who Do I Call If I Have A Nuisance Wildlife Pest Problem In Charlottesville Or Richmond, Virginia?

If you own a home or business in Charlottesville or Richmond, Virginia, you know that dealing with strange animals is never any fun. And if you don’t have experience in the matter, you need to seek out an expert for help—a company like Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, LLC.

If you’re having trouble with critters showing up on your Charlottesville or Richmond property, contact Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services fast. We know what to do to rid your home or business of its animal troubles.

As a wildlife control company, we are going to make a point to figure what type of animal we’re dealing with before proceeding with any course of action. For instance, you may have trash scattered around your yard every night, but cannot figure out what’s causing the mess. It could be something as simple as a cat, or, on the other hand, it could be a raccoon. It’s hard to figure out what it is if you aren’t an expert. A professional company like ours will know what to do to determine the type of animal that’s at the root of the problem.

Once our wildlife control experts discover what animal is causing all the issues, then it’s a matter of finding out how the animal is getting onto the property. Many times, animals can dig under fences or get in through the smallest cracks or crevices. Our professionals will know how to narrow down the possibilities as far as entry onto the property. As a result, we will keep this in mind when going through the process of how best to keep animals out.

The hardest part of wildlife control is catching the animal. Some animals are easier to catch than others. There are various methods involved in catching wild animals. The thing that our professionals know is that different animals call for different methods of capture. For instance, if the issue involves a snake, our experts are not going to use the same tactics that we would use to catch a possum; and vice versa. The bottom line is that hiring an experienced company like ours will save you time, money and offer peace of mind.

After the animal is caught, it’s essential that our wildlife control specialists properly seal off the opening where the animal is getting in. This way, you can rest assured that the animal doesn’t get in from that location again. Also, our specialists can help in identifying and preventing animals from entering from new locations.

When dealing with critters, you want to make sure whoever handles the problem offers a guarantee. Nothing’s worse than thinking you have all those pests squared away, only to wake up one morning and see one of those same critters staring you in the face. If you’re dealing with a professional company like Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, we will offer a guarantee that the nuisance will be gone or we’ll come out again to remedy the problem.

When you know you have a critter roaming through your Charlottesville or Richmond property, you won’t rest until it’s gone. That’s why you want a wildlife control service company like Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services. We use the most humanely efficient methods to rid your home or business of animal pest problems.

Some of the services we offer Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia homes and businesses include bat removal, bat control, beaver removal, beaver trapping, bird removal, bird control, squirrel removal, squirrel trapping, raccoon removal, raccoon trapping, skunk removal, skunk trapping, snake removal, snake trapping, opossum removal, opossum trapping, groundhog removal, groundhog trapping, mole removal, mole control, fox trapping, fox removal, coyote trapping, coyote removal, chipmunk trapping, chipmunk removal, and turtle trapping and turtle removal. Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, LLC is licensed and insured and provides 24/7 service to home owners and businesses. Call (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975 to have us solve your wildlife problem.

Facts About Bats – Charlottesville and Richmond

Facts About Bats In Virginia – Charlottesville and Richmond

facts about bats in virginiaA few facts about bats in Virginia – Charlottesville and Richmond:
1. Bat fossils have been found that date back approximately 50 million years.
2. Bats are mammals–more closely related to primates than rodents.
3. Bats give birth to poorly developed young and nurse them from pectoral breasts.
4. More than 1,100 kinds of bats amount to approx. 25% of all mammal species.
5. Some 47 bat species live in the U.S. and Canada.
6. Like dolphins, most bats communicate and navigate with high-frequency sounds.
7. Bats are not blind and many have excellent vision.
8. In temperate regions, cold weather forces bats to migrate or hibernate.
9. Typically, bats are very loyal to their birthplaces and hibernating sites.
10. How they find their way over the long distances that often exist between their hibernating and summer caves remains largely a mystery.

Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, LLC, knows the true facts about bats in Virginia. We perform bat exclusions, individual bat removal, and bat guano clean-up services in Central and Eastern Virginia – including Richmond, Charlottesville, Goochland, Louisa, Fluvanna, Orange, Albemarle, Powhatan, Mineral, Gordonsville, Earlysville, Keswick, Henrico and Hanover.

Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services personnel view bats as the beneficial animals that they are, and make every effort to exclude bats from buildings in a safe and effective manner. Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services personnel are also knowledgeable and experienced with bat guano clean-up techniques and procedures.

At Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services we are constantly striving to advance our education so that we may serve you better.

If you have a bat colony in your attic, call Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services today at (804) 457-2883 and schedule a site visit. Don’t leave Virginia bat removal to amateurs or fly-by-night “companies” that spray harmful chemicals which are illegal in Virginia. Get the facts about bats in Virginia by calling (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975 and talking to one of our certified bat removal experts.

The Desperate Battle Against Killer Bat Plague

The Desperate Battle Against Killer Bat Plague

by Brandon Keim, December 8, 2010, 7:00 am

little brown batIt’s a postcard October morning at Kentucky’s Carter Caves state park. Sycamore and hickory have already turned orange, and the sun crests ancient Appalachian slopes against a cloudless sky. With Halloween a few days away, a life-sized Elvis dummy peeks out a visitor center window. Middle schoolers on a field trip are coming down one of the trails, preceded by their laughter.

The idyll is complete but for two details: All but two of the park’s caves are permanently shut to the public, and in the parking lot are six researchers in Tyvek bodysuits and gloves, like extras from Outbreak.

The caves are closed, and bodysuits required, because of White Nose Syndrome, a bat-killing disease more virulent than any other disease in the known history of mammals. As the children walk to their bus, I wonder if they’ll remember this morning as adults, and tell their own kids about a time when bats lived in caves. “What’s wrong with the bats?” a girl asks, her tour guides having kept the day shadow-free. “They’re sick,” I say.

My answer isn’t precisely correct. Had the girl asked Hazel Barton, a Northern Kentucky University microbiologist who’s there to sample bat hair and skin, or Brooke Slack, a state bat biologist, she would have learned that Carter Caves’ bats are being protected. White Nose Syndrome — WNS for short — hasn’t yet reached Kentucky, but its march down the cave-riddled Appalachians passed within 100 miles of where we stand, putting us squarely on the battle’s front lines.

At this point, it’s a losing battle. Bats with noses dusted by the Geomyces destructans fungus that causes WNS were seen for the first time in early 2006, in upstate New York. One year later, biologists realized that WNS could kill bats in large numbers. By 2008, mortality in major New York and Vermont hibernacula, caves where tens and hundreds of thousands of bats had wintered, was more than 90 percent. Biologists wore gas masks against the stench of rotting bodies. Bones cracked like popcorn under their feet.

By the end of last winter, G. destructans was found in 14 states and two Canadian provinces, and at least a million bats were dead. In August, a high-profile Science study gave computationally modeled meaning to all those dead-bat piles. The little brown bat, more common than any other in North America, the furred star of most every attic and open-window encounter, so numerous as to be considered pests, would be extinct in 20 years in the eastern United States. If by some unexpected miracle WNS mortality dropped from over 90 percent to 5 percent, they might make it to the century’s end.

That essential prognosis applies to at least three other cave-dwelling, hibernating bat species, and probably more, though one-by-one tabulations tend to obscure the potential of WNS to annihilate an entire manner of animal being. In sheer magnitude, WNS threatens to dwarf the demise of plains bison or passenger pigeons, the historical benchmarks of American animal collapse. The closest comparison is Chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease now scouring amphibians from much of the planet.

Yet even as the reality of WNS has emerged in the popular press, public and policy reaction has been muted. Awareness and concern exists, but at a fraction of what would likely be displayed if, say, half of America’s waterfowl were about to vanish.

Bat conservationists tend to blame this on bats’ unfair and untrue reputation as rabies-ridden, hair-tangling rodents. A more fundamental problem, however, is that bats are generally absent from everyday awareness. Most specialize in eating insects at night in the air, an ecological niche both staggeringly enormous and out of sight. Their taxonomic order, Chiroptera — more closely related to primates than rodents — contains more mammal species than any order except rodents, yet most people have never seen a bat up close.

Several thousand hibernate in the old saltpeter mine where Hazel Barton and Brooke Slack and their assistants go. At this point in the season, they’ll fly out at night for a last few pre-winter meals. In the daytime they sleep, clinging to walls and cuddling for warmth and companionship.

Barton, a lifelong spelunker with rare expertise in cave microbiology, is interested in fungi that grow naturally on bat skin. By the glow of headlamps the researchers pluck bats from the ceiling with practiced efficiency, swabbing their skin and clipping tufts of hair from which fungal DNA will later be extracted. Slack examines the wings, looking for any signs of the dreaded disease.

This early in the season, it’s extremely unlikely that G. destructans growth would be visible. But it’s always possible that some spore-carrying survivor from one of West Virginia’s WNS-afflicted colonies arrived this season, scars on its wings portending potential doom. The presence of G. destructans was confirmed in West Virginia’s largest hibernacula last winter; it also reached Tennessee, Missouri and Oklahoma. Barton and Slack were sure it would reach Carter Caves, as well. Their fears survived for another season.

Despite the researchers’ care, the bats start to wake, roused by noise and light and even the ambient temperature difference of our bodies. By the time Barton finishes, many are aloft, circling with the speed and agility of swallows. Their cries reverberate down the narrow hall. Others remain hanging, swaying every so slightly, just enough to make it feel like the walls are pulsing. It’s as if the entire cave is alive.

As we hurry out, I ask Barton whether she thinks these bats will stay WNS-free, if they have a chance. Grimacing, she shakes her head.

Treatment Options

Over a few months of taxi and bar conversations about WNS, most people’s instinctive response was to imagine a treatment, a drug of some sort, something that can be sprayed on bats to kill the fungus and control the disease.

It’s a noble response, rooted in an elbow-grease, can-do spirit and the historical success of relatively straightforward conservation measures like habitat protection and captive breeding, plus an abiding American faith in both medication and technology. Indeed, several groups of researchers, including Hazel Barton and her collaborators, are working on anti-WNS treatments. But if finding a compound that killed G. destructans in a petri dish was enough to stop the outbreak, it would already be over.

In laboratory tests, drug store antifungals like Tinactin and Lamisil kill G. destructans just fine. They’re also neurotoxic endocrine disruptors that kill bats, and even at low, sub-lethal doses would tilt the balance towards extinction. It’s not hard to do. Unlike most small animals, bats live for decades and reproduce slowly, perhaps because — until WNS — survival was generally assured upon reaching adulthood. There was little need for replenishment. Healthy populations of little brown bats grow at an infinitesimal annual rate of about .008 percent.

Unless a WNS treatment destroys G. destructans while staying on the safe side of that threshold, it will simply substitute for the disease. And if researchers find a physiologically safe compound, it needs to be ecologically safe as well, leaving unharmed the thousands of other fungal species that are the foundation of cave ecosystems.

It’s not a trivial concern. When Fusarium solani fungus started to eat the 17,000-year-old cave paintings in Lascaux, France, it was easily eradicated with chemicals. Two years later, an even worse fungus sprouted on the pigments, apparently unleashed from environmental insignificance by the treatments. The same could happen to bats.

After all this, should some safe and balanced compound be found, researchers would need to treat every single bat in every last crack and crevice, all winter long, at outbreak sites. It’s conceivable, but would be so logistically challenging and labor-intensive that even successful treatments represent a stopgap measure.

“Is it possible? Theoretically, yes. But the best-case scenario is to slow the spread down, and maybe to protect one very, very special site,” says Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Greg Turner. “Even though I’m doing these treatment experiments, I don’t put a lot of hope in finding some miracle cure. There’s just too many problems.”

Kentucky is on the front lines of WNS, but Pennsylvania is a central battleground. The disease arrived in 2008, and has since spread through the state’s eastern hibernacula, with death counts ranging from 80 percent to 99.9 percent. Western Pennsylvania held out longer, but I met Turner as he was driving to Laurel Caverns in the state’s far southwestern tip, where WNS arrived last winter.

Together with fellow Commission biologist Cal Butchkoski, Turner is responsible for Pennsylvania’s bats. On this morning he’s wearing a T-shirt reading, “Bats Need Friends Too,” over which he’ll later button his Game Commission uniform. For years he and Butchkoski have traveled the state year-round, counting bats in hundreds of caves and mines, painstakingly detailing their movements and habits.

When WNS hit, they already knew what happened in New York, and were ready — not to stop the disease, though cave closures and decontamination protocols probably slowed its accidental spread by human cave visitors, but to study it.

As a result, Pennsylvania has become a giant WNS laboratory. Turner and Butchkoski make observations and gather samples used by dozens of researchers, especially Hazel Barton and Bucknell University bat biologist DeeAnn Reeder. Together they’re studying a myriad of basic biological questions that need to be answered before WNS can be understood, much less stopped. And of all their questions, none is more basic than this: Why do the bats die?

Portrait of a Killer

It may seem strange to still have this question. There is, after all, no shortage of dead bats to study. But the WNS outbreak cast into sharp relief just how much remains to be learned about the basic biology of the everyday world.

In bats, for example, there’s no such thing as a blood test of the sort that’s routinely administered to people and even our pets, giving a quick chemical and immunological profile of health. The bat immune system is, in Barton’s words, “a blank sheet of paper with a black box in the middle.”

At the ecological level, what many bat species eat, and even where they live for certain parts of the year, is almost as mysterious. And compared to fungi, bats are well-understood. Barton and Reeder were thrust into the forefront of WNS research not only because they’re good scientists, but because they were among the few people studying relevant questions when the disease hit.

Out of all this uncertainty, a picture of WNS has slowly emerged. At its center is G. destructans itself, which had not been identified before the outbreak. Like Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the fungus responsible for chytridiomycosis in amphibians), it violates what had been a cardinal rule of fungal infections: They’re not fatal. Its unexpected nature is one reason it took several years for researchers to generally agree that G. destructans causes WNS.

Leading the characterization of G. destructans were researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. They sequenced the fungi’s genes, placing it within the otherwise innocuous Geomyces clade, found widely in soil — “myces” signifies fungus, “geo” means “of the Earth” — and describing its physical characteristics, in particular its telltale sickle-shaped spores. They also named it destructans, a straightforward and accurate appellation.

The bats’ eponymous white noses are just visible spore growth. The real damage occurs below. G. destructans lives on bat skin, invading hair follicles and sebaceous glands, forming pockets on the surface of exposed wings, breaking through into the epithelium beneath. There it breaks down connective tissue and muscle and nerves into digestible nutrients. Under a microscope, researchers liken G. destructans mycelium to spaghetti wriggling into meat. Another resemblance is the demon worms that consume animal flesh in Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

How this progresses at a cell-by-level level is not known. At the other end of the scale, the chain of transmission between bats — whether it spreads in winter or fall or spring, if animals of particular life stages or habits are the primary vectors — is also uncertain. Also undetermined are the exact origins of G. destructans.

It may have come on a tourist’s boot or cargo stowaway bat from Europe, where G. destructans, or something very much like it, has subsequently been found, but in the absence of disease. Their apparent resistance suggests that modern European bats are descended from survivors of a prehistoric WNS epidemic, and G. destructans is “like smallpox arriving in the New World,” says Reeder. But it’s also possible that American G. destructans differs subtly from European, with some single, as-yet-unspecified mutation just happening to produce a skin-digesting enzyme.

Whatever its origins, G. destructans thrives in the cold favored by cave-dwelling, hibernating bats, which during hibernation cool their bodies to ambient temperatures. Among hibernators in general, this usually involves shutting down energy-intensive immune systems. “Here comes this cold-loving fungus, and it’s found immune-suppressed animals. They’re like HIV patients. It’s a perfect storm,” says Reeder.

With the help of temperature-recording sensors affixed to bat bodies and thermal cameras in caves, Reeder and other researchers have found that little brown bats, which briefly wake from hibernation every few weeks when healthy, rise every few days when infected. She suspects that arousal is a form of immune system “rebooting,” and that bats with WNS are trying to fight the disease.

Another proposed explanation comes from the USGS researchers, who note the importance of bat wings, which G. destructans reduces to the consistency of perforated tissue paper, to maintaining water balance and homeostasis. Autopsies of WNS-killed bats have found many to be so dehydrated that their tissues stick to researchers’ fingers. According to this hypothesis, infected bats wake, and can die, from thirst.

Both explanations could be right. The fungus may also release toxins, or open holes for secondary bacterial infections. Whatever the pathological constellation, waking from hibernation requires a rise in body temperature from 40 degrees to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Stoking biological furnaces burns quickly through the bats’ fat reserves. Looking for food, perhaps, or disoriented by dehydration, many fly outside, giving rise to another defining phenomenon of the disease: Bats flying out of caves in daylight, one by one for weeks on end, dying on the landscape in the middle of winter.

Amidst this carnage are a few cautiously optimistic notes. Field observations and Reeder’s work with captive bats suggests that WNS virulence varies by cave microclimate. Reeder, whose lab whiteboard is filled from top to bottom with the upcoming winter’s experiments, recently installed a set of environmental chambers that provide fine-tuned control over temperature and humidity for bats inside. If cold and dryness moderate the disease, she and the Pennsylvania biologists will try to manipulate real-world environments, sinking air shafts into hibernacula to create pockets of safety.

Other biologists, including former New York Department of Environmental Conservation biologist Al Hicks, have proposed designing “artificial hibernacula,” perhaps in repurposed World War II ammunition bunkers, where transplanted colonies of bats could be monitored and treated.

“You have no choice but to do everything you can do,” says Turner. “When you think of yourself as a conservationist in any way, it’s not to throw your hands up and say, ‘We’re fucked.’ There’s always a glimmer of hope somewhere.”

A World Without Bats

Cal Butchkoski, the other Game Commission bat biologist, echoes Turner. “How do you keep from despair? You have to maintain some hope,” he says. But a note of fatalism tinges the voice of Butchkoski, a thoughtful, soft-spoken man whose bat labors stretch back two decades, whose backyard bat colony is still big enough for him to have a mosquito-free beer on summer evenings. “There’s just so much we don’t know.”

On a crisp fall night in Amish farm country outside State College, Pennsylvania, Butchkoski is visiting a hibernacula where WNS was detected last year. He thinks that about half the bats died, though the count’s not official. On this night, he and three assistants are seeing what’s still alive. With plastic sheeting they seal the cave entrance, a nondescript-looking crevice in a streamside hollow, then cut a window-sized hole. Into the hole goes a harp trap, named for its resemblance to the musical instrument. Bats will hit the strings, and fall into a padded bag at the bottom.

Having set the trap, the researchers walk back to their trucks, and settle into folding chairs to wait. A bat detector relays a static hum from the cave entrance. A full moon rises. I think on a question implicit in the epidemic: What does it really matter if bats die?

There are different perspectives on this question.

One is at the level of organismal empathy. Infected bats undoubtedly suffer, perhaps in a manner people typically associate with larger, more charismatic animals. “It wouldn’t surprise me that bats have some sort of rudimentary language,” Bill Elliott, a bat biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, told me. “They have sophisticated social interactions. We think our big brains are the ultimate, but going in the other direction is just as good.”

Beyond the organismal level is that of species, not just one but a slew. The little brown bat has received the most attention, but the Eastern pipistrelle, Northern long-ear and endangered Indiana bat all appear equally vulnerable. Somewhat more resistant, but still imperiled, are big brown and small-footed bats. Those six species happened to be first in line in the northeast. In the past year, G. destructans was found in three southern species — the cave myotis, gray bat, and southeastern myotis. It remains to be seen how WNS will progress in them.

Altogether, more than half of North America’s 45 bat species may fit the cave-dwelling, hibernating WNS victim profile. And if one takes seriously the notion that the natural world is a collective treasure, a living museum several billion years in the making, then bats represent a whole wing of it. Losing half of them in North America is a bit like losing half our jazz musicians, or abstract painters, or novelists. Something unique and unreplicable will be gone.

The same argument extends to certain cave systems, especially in the southeast, where entire ecologies of cave-adapted animals rely on guano as a foundational nutrient source. “The consequences of losing the guano could be dire. It could mean these systems eventually run down,” said Elliott.

Not everyone shares conservationist sentiments. But there’s a utilitarian argument as well, short and sweet. Bats eat bugs. Lots of them. Little brown bats famously eat half their body weight in bugs each night, more if they’re nursing. Many of those insects eat crops.

The bottom-line value of their pest control is methodologically difficult to compute, but Boston University bat ecologist Tom Kunz made an informative try several years ago. In an eight-county region of south-central Texas, where Mexican freetail bats eat cotton bollworms and corn earworms, he calculated that bats save farmers roughly $740,000 annually — about one-eighth of total harvest value — in prevented crop damage and reduced pesticide treatments.

Early in the summer, before the region’s farmers typically start to use pesticides, the labor of each individual freetail was worth about $.02 per night. In a region where airborne bat densities are so great as to be visible on Doppler radar, it adds up.

Mexican freetails are probably safe from WNS, but Kunz’s figures are instructive. Some variant likely holds just about everywhere bats live. And contrary to the conventional expectation that evolution and ecology will find something else to do the bats’ job, their niche will almost certainly stay empty in any human-relevant timeframe. Nocturnal airborne insects are the sole province of bats, a food source they’ve exploited so completely and efficiently over the last 50 million years as to be without competition.

“There are people who say, ‘Well, birds will do better.’ No. They’re not going to eat the nocturnal insects,” says Reeder. And should a few bats prove genetically resistant to WNS, in sufficient numbers that some other environmental circumstance doesn’t finish them off, it will still take hundreds or thousands of years to recover.

The agricultural threat alone makes it all the more unreasonable that WNS researchers have been given a pittance of federal support.

The National Science Foundation has essentially ignored the disease. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through which most WNS research and management is coordinated, spent $2.4 million on the disease last year, or slightly less than it expects to save through upgrades to departmental e-mail and data processing. Congress gave an extra $1.9 million in 2010, but that may have been a one-time event.

As of early November, the Department of the Interior’s omnibus appropriations budget, slated for a December vote, contained a $5 million WNS funding request. In this deficit-sensitive moment, however, such “earmarks” are an unpopular proposition.

Winifed Frick, a University of California, Santa Cruz bioinformaticist who with Kunz co-authored the Science paper on imminent little brown bat extinction, described meeting in October with the legislative aide of one prominent Senator.

“She said, ‘We’ve been asked to trim the budget. Unless you can show how this is going to help blue-collar jobs, I don’t know how this is going to get through,’” said Frick. “It’s a tough budget year. This would be considered an earmark. I get it. But it’s frustrating when $5 million is not a lot in terms of appropriations, and would make a huge difference in terms of our project.”

It should be noted that Butchkoski’s three technicians on the Amish farm count are seasonal contract workers and fit any non-industrial definition of blue-collar labor. But as they check the trap, thoughts of funding and politics are far away. The night’s haul is four northern long-ears. They submit graciously to Butchkoski’s inspections, opening their mouths in brief protest before settling down on the technicians’ thumbs. Their wings prove mercifully free of disease.

“I never thought I’d be so happy to see four northern long-ears,” he says. “Now we know they’re here. Thankfully, they’re still here.”

The Start of Winter

On a rainy mid-November morning, Hazel Barton and Greg Turner and DeeAnn Reeder’s students hike to the Durham iron mine outside Bucks County, Pennsylvania. First excavated by Winnebago Indians, then by colonial settlers, it was abandoned in the 19th century and eventually became home to about 8,000 bats.

When WNS hit last year, the researchers scrambled to test an antifungal compound that had shown laboratory promise. By the time they started, though, the outbreak was well underway, and the cages they built had holes. When the researchers came back two months later, the cages were empty, and the bats a brown sludge of decay on the floor. Dismaying results, but inconclusive: Maybe it would have worked if they’d started sooner, or if the bats hadn’t escaped.

The researchers have arrived earlier this year, with several new compounds and more reliable equipment. After crawling down a series of sloping, rubble-filled tunnels, they reach a central hallway. On one rust-colored wall, some long-ago vandal has spray painted, “Land of the Bats.”

Maybe a thousand bats are still left. Reeder’s students pick them from the walls, placing some in coolers for transport back to her lab, where they’ll live this winter. Others go into plywood treatment cages. Barton is secretive about the compounds, but allows that one is carvone, the candidate from last year. Three others are derived from antifungals identified by her research as produced naturally on bat skin.

Will the treatments work? “We’ll find out when come back in the spring,” says Barton.

Many other questions may also be answered by then. How will the southern and western spread of G. destructans play out? Will it be less virulent in warmer climes, in new species with different habits? Will some prove resistant, but carry it even further? Will it cross the Great Plains? Will it spread to the Great Lakes region, where it will almost assuredly be as destructive as in the northeast? In the northeast, will there be signs of resistance?

Asking bat researchers about this winter, two phrases keep coming up: “Holding our breath” and “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Several of Barton and Reeder’s compounds are aerosols, contained in bottles beneath the bats’ cages. To help with dispersal, they’ve been mixed with oils, aromatherapy-style. Improbably, Durham Mine fills with the scent of almonds. Barton bounds back and forth, peering into the cages. For all her earlier caveats about the limitations of treatment, her voice is full of excitement. As we leave, the cages recede into darkness.

On the drive up, Barton described how, during the trial’s first run, she’d expected to return to cages full of healthy bats, with others clinging to the outside, trying to get in. On the ride back, I ask if she still does.

“If I didn’t have that hope, I wouldn’t be doing this,” she says.

Images: 1) Indiana bat inspected by Brooke Slack at Carter Caves state park, Kentucky. 2) Little brown bats in Laurel Caverns, Pennsylvania. 3) A little brown bat with White Nose Syndrome in a limestone mine near Rosendale, New York. 4) Northern long-eared bat examined on a far near State College, Pennsylvania. 5) Little brown bat in a treatment cage in Durham Mine, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. 6) Treatment cage in Durham Mine. All photographs by Brandon Keim.

Call (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975 for fast, safe and humane bat removal in Central Virginia including the Richmond VA and Charlottesville VA areas.

Squirrels nesting in your Charlottesville or Richmond Virginia home for the winter?

As we turn up the heat to beat the cold temperatures, squirrels are trying to do the same thing. Squirrels will leave their leafy homes behind in the wintertime and go somewhere warmer like a hollow tree or your Richmond or Charlottesville Virginia house.

Squirrels don’t realize that they are going into your house. They see a weak/rotten spot in the house, and in the eyes of the squirrel that’s a really good hollow tree to make home for the winter.

The best way to prevent squirrels from getting into your house is by taking care of the structure of the house and doing regular maintenance. If you’re already having a problem with squirrels, or other pest control problems, contact Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services at (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975.

Don’t Fear Bats: They are a vital link in our ecology

By Nancy O’Donnell
Albany Times Union
 

Halloween weekend is a good time to discuss the truth about the little, flying mammals of the night sky.

So what do you know about bats? Did you even know that they’re mammals? They are the only true flying mammal; sorry, but flying squirrels actually glide.

Bats are warm-blooded and have either fur or hair. They birth their young live — no egg-laying for them — and the moms nurse their babies.

Baby bats are referred to as “pups” and are born bald, usually in early summer. Mating occurs in the fall, but here’s a cool fact: The female safely stores the sperm in her body until spring, when fertilization actually takes place.

Bats don’t build nests. Instead, they create roosts: places where they hang upside- down and sleep. Depending on the species, roosts can be found in caves, under bridges, in the crevices of trees, in buildings, and, of course, in attics.

Pregnant females often roost together in what has been dubbed a nursery roost; hundreds can roost at one time. Almost immediately after birth, these mini mammals have the ability to hang upside-down. Within a month’s time, they are flying and hunting on their own, and no longer relying on mom.

Bats are an integral part of our ecological system. The diet of many bat species is strictly insects, and lots of them. A single bat can consume nearly its body weight in insects a night; that’s thousands of insects in an evening’s flight.

These are insects that would otherwise be biting us, spreading diseases or wreaking havoc on food crops. Some bats dine on pollen, fruit, small amphibians and an occasional slurp of blood.

Vampire (blood-drinking) bats live in Latin America. They don’t suck the blood; they prick their sleeping victim (usually animals) and allow the blood to pool, and then they drink it.

When its victim wakes up, the small puncture wounds have scabbed over, and the animal can go about its day.

As for rabies, Bat Conservation International says that over the last 50 years, only 48 people in the United States have contracted rabies because of a bat bite, putting your chance right up there with winning the lottery.

Bats are not blind, as many folks believe. Rather than use their eyes at night, they have a built-in sonar system called echolocation. They send out a high-frequency screech that our ears can’t detect. The sound waves bounce off objects in front of the bat. When the waves return, and the bat is able to create a “picture” of objects, insects and predators from the echoes.

When insect populations dwindle in late fall, bats go into hibernation until spring. Bats that lived to a ripe old age of 30 or more years were not uncommon until now.

While they hibernate during the winter, a fungal infection called white nose syndrome is rapidly overtaking the little brown bat found in New York. As a result, the species could be extinct in as little as 25 years.

In 2009, Scientific American reported the first discovery of the disease here in the United States in Howe Caverns in Upstate New York. Cavers who took photos of hibernating bats there found something white and fuzzy covering their muzzles and wings. Numerous dead bats also were found on the cave’s floor. The New York Department of Conservation has since recorded 1 million bat cases in New York alone.

The disease disorients the bat. It wakes up from its slumber while it’s still winter and burns through its stored fat reserves. That leaves the bat with a low body-fat concentration for the remainder of the cold months, resulting in starvation or death by freezing. The disease is highly infectious, has caused the death of entire colonies of bats within one winter, and is moving throughout the southern states and north into Canada.

The bacterium that causes white nose fungus is believed to be spread by bat droppings that get picked up unknowingly by other bats or on the clothing or boots of spelunkers.

A cure has not been found. But without help, the little brown bat and eight other species of North American bats face extinction, and the result of their demise on the environment will be staggering.

Sadly, it is the little bat that should fear us and not the other way around.

CHARLOTTESVILLE AND RICHMOND VIRGINIA BAT REMOVAL AND BAT CONTROL – VIRGINIA PROFESSIONAL WILDLIFE REMOVAL SERVICES – (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975
www.VirginiaProfessionalWildlifeRemovalServices.com

An Unprecedented Bat Die-Off Could Devastate U.S. Agriculture

By BRUCE KENNEDY Posted 9:45 AM 10/12/10

Most people don’t love bats, but like good health, you’ll realize that you miss them after they’re gone. Experts believe many species of bats may vanish pretty soon, and their disappearance could bring profound and long-term changes not only to the environment but also to agriculture, landscaping and gardening across North America.

For several years now, scientists have been sounding alarms about a devastating fungus, White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), that has literally decimated bat populations in the Northeastern U.S. The fungus leaves a white substance on the bat’s nose, wings and body, and disrupts the bat’s hibernation patterns, forcing it to burn through its fat reserves, which quickly leads to starvation. Earlier this year, a survey of the bat population in New Jersey estimated that 90% of that state’s bats had been killed off.

“This is on a level unprecedented, certainly in mammals,” says Rick Adams, a biology professor at the University of Northern Colorado and a renowned bat expert. “A mass extinction event, a thousand times higher than anything we’ve seen. It’s going through [bat colonies] like wildfire, with 80% to 100% mortality.”

“The disease is absolutely devastating, it’s unprecedented,” says Mylea Bayless, a biologist with Austin, Texas-based Bat Conservation International. “It’s causing population declines in wildlife that we haven’t seen since the passenger pigeon.”

Bayless notes that bats have slow reproductive rates, usually giving birth to just one pup a year. So bat populations, she says, are going to be very slow to recover, “if they ever do recover.” The disease, adds Bayless, “is moving at a pace that’s astonishing, about 450 miles per year. In four short years, it’s now closer to the Pacific Ocean than it is to its point of origination in Albany, N.Y.”

Your Billion-Dollar Bug Eaters

You might be saying good riddance, but think again. Bats are the primary predator of night-flying insects. That not only includes pests like mosquitoes but also insects like corn earworm moths and cotton bollworms. In their caterpillar forms, those insects can destroy crops. A 2006 study of several counties in South-Central Texas concluded that the local bat population had an annual value of over $740,000 a year as a pest control — or up to 29% of the value of the local cotton crop.

A bat eats 60% to 100% of its body-weight in insects every day. Adams says one colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, an important agricultural region, “pulls about 100 metric tons of insects out of the air in a year.” And having bats in agricultural areas, he says, tends to move insects out of those areas, creating less need for dangerous and expensive pesticides.

And like honey bee colonies — which have also been facing massive die-offs in recent years — some bats are important pollinators and seed-distributors. Adams says bats are crucial to the reproduction of tropical fruits like mangos, papayas, figs and wild bananas. And in Arizona, bats are the primary pollinators for three large cactus species that support much of the region’s ecosystem.

Government and Researchers Fight Back

The fungus associated with WNS is widespread in Europe, but it doesn’t affect bats there. No one is sure yet how it became so lethal to North America’s bat population — but there’s a possible human element. Scientists says WNS spores have been found on the clothing and gear of people exploring caves containing bat colonies. The pattern of its spread is also inconsistent with bat migration. “It went from Tennessee to Missouri and then to Western Oklahoma,” says Adams, “and it doesn’t seem like it would be moving like that if it was just bats.”

In the meantime, humans are fighting back. Adams is hosting a conference on the crisis later this month in Denver. The event is expected to draw hundreds of bat experts from around the world. The Forest Service is banning visitors to the thousands of caves and abandoned mines that dot the landscape in at least five Rocky Mountain and Great Plains states. And the Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded $1.6 million in grants for WNS research and control.

“But we all know that’s a drop in the bucket for a disease that’s sweeping the country and killing 95% of an entire group of animals,” says Bayless. “For some people, that may seem like money. . .not well-spent, but [what are] the economic and ecological consequences of losing an entire species? A little bit of money spent now will save us in the long term.”

Call us at (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975 for safe and humane bat removal in Central Virginia.

Bats In Charlottesville And Richmond Virginia

Bats in Charlottesville and Richmond Virginia.

bats in charlottesville and richmond virginiaHumane Bat Removal, Bat Control, Bat Management and Bat Houses in Central Virginia. Call us at (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975. Did you know that when it comes to bats in Charlottesville and Richmond Virginia that Virginia has 17 of the more than 1,000 bat species worldwide? Three of the bat species in Virginia are federal endangered species (Gray Bat, Indiana Bat, and Virginia Big-eared Bat); the Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat, also known as the Eastern Big-eared Bat, is a state threatened and endangered species.

The bats in Virginia are divided into two categories: cave bats and tree bats. Cave bats hibernate in caves, while tree bats hibernate in leaf clusters, under decaying logs, in hollow trees, or sometimes in abandoned mines or old buildings.

Virginia’s cave bats include:

  • Gray Bat
  • Small-footed Bat
  • Little Brown Bat
  • Northern Long-eared Bat
  • Indiana Bat
  • Eastern Pipistrelle
  • Big Brown Bat
  • Virginia Big-eared Bat

Virginia’s tree bats include:

  • Southeastern Myotis
  • Silver-haired Bat
  • Eastern Red Bat
  • Hoary Bat
  • Northern Yellow Bat
  • Seminole Bat
  • Evening Bat
  • Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat

There has also been an occurrence of the Brazilian Free-tailed bat in southeastern Virginia.

  • The Big Brown Bat and the Little Brown Bat are the species more likely observed by Virginians.
  • The Virginia Big-eared Bat is the state bat of the Commonwealth.
  • Cave bats generally give birth to only one pup; per year, and tree bats generally give birth to two or more pups per year.
  • Bats in Virginia eat insects, and they are valuable in controlling mosquito populations. Some bats can consume up to 3,000 insects in one night.
  • Bats are true hibernators that undergo physiological and metabolic shutdown during the winter. A hibernating bat’s heartbeat drops from 400 beats per minute to 25 beats per minute.
  • Bats may hibernate for as long as 83 days, slowly metabolizing the body fat stored during the fall. Studies have shown that each time a little brown bat is disturbed during hibernation it expends the fat reserves necessary to hibernate 67 days.
  • Bat hibernation caves are known as hibernacula.
  • Another remarkable quality found in bats is their ability to emit high frequency sounds, or ultrasound, similar to sonar, to detect and to catch insect prey, to avoid obstacles, and to communicate.
  • Bats in Virginia are nocturnal.
  • Bats generally mate in the fall and winter but the females’ bodies delay fertilization until spring. Births typically occur from May through July. Young bats can fly at three weeks and weaning typically occurs in July and August.
  • Bats can live more than 10 years and some species can live up to 30 years.
  • Owls, hawks, raccoons, skunks and other animals prey on bats.
  • Bats, like any mammals, can carry rabies, but more rabies cases in Virginia are attributed to raccoons,foxes, and feral cats (VDH Rabies Statistics).

Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services performs bat exclusions, individual bat removal, and bat guano clean-up services in Central and Eastern Virginia – including Richmond, Charlottesville, Goochland, Louisa, Fluvanna, Orange, Albemarle, Powhatan, Mineral, Gordonsville, Earlysville, Keswick, Henrico and Hanover. Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services is registered with and recommended by Bat Conservation International as Bat Exclusion Professionals. Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services personnel view bats as the beneficial animals that they are, and make every effort to exclude bats from buildings in a safe and effective manner. Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services personnel are also knowledgeable and experienced with bat guano clean-up techniques and procedures.

At Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services we are constantly striving to advance our education so that we may serve you better.

If you have a bat colony in your attic, call Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services today and schedule a site visit. We can safely remove the bats from your home or business, and make sure that the bats do not return. We do not perform bat exclusions from May through August.

Do you have a bat in your home or business? First, if possible isolate the bat to one room, then call Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services and let us remove the bat for you. If the bat has made contact with any person or pet, it will need to be tested by the Virginia Health Department for rabies.

Damage and Damage Identification

Bats often fly about swimming pools, from which they drink or catch insects. White light (with an ultraviolet component), commonly used for porch lights, building illumination, street and parking-lot lights, may attract flying insects, which in turn attract bats. Unfortunately, the mere presence of a bat outdoors is sometimes beyond the tolerance of some uninformed people. Information is a good remedy for such situations.

Bats commonly enter buildings through openings associated with the roof edge and valleys, eaves, apex of the gable, chimney, attic or roof vent, dormers, and siding. Other openings may be found under loosefitting doors, around windows, gaps around various conduits (wiring, plumbing, air conditioning) that pass through walls, and through utility vents.

Bats are able to squeeze through narrow slits and cracks. For purposes of bat management, one should pay attention to any gap of approximately 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches (0.6 x 3.8 cm) or a hole 5/8 x 7/8 inch (1.6 x 2.2 cm). Such openings must be considered potential entries for at least the smaller species, such as the little brown bat. The smaller species require an opening no wider than 3/8 inch (0.95 cm), that is, a hole the diameter of a US 10-cent coin (Greenhall 1982). Openings of these dimensions are not uncommon in older wood frame structures where boards have shrunk, warped, or otherwise become loosened.

The discovery of one or two bats in a house is a frequent problem. In the Northeast, big brown bats probably account for most sudden appearances. Common in urban areas, they often enter homes through open windows or unscreened fireplaces. If unused chimneys are selected for summer
roosts, bats may fall or crawl through the open damper into the house. Sometimes bats may appear in a room, then disappear by crawling under a door to another room, hallway, or closet. They may also disappear behind curtains, wall hangings, bookcases, under beds, into waste baskets, and so forth. Locating and removing individual bats from living quarters can be laborious but is important. If all else fails, wait until dusk when the bat may appear once again as it attempts to find an exit. Since big brown bats may hibernate in the cooler recesses of heated buildings, they may suddenly appear (flying indoors or outdoors) in midwinter during a warm spell or a cold snap as they move about to adjust to the temperature shift. (Source: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage –1994)

Health Concerns

Rabies – Bats are distinct from most vertebrate pests that inhabit human dwellings because of the potential for transmitting rabies — a viral infection of mammals that is usually transmitted via the bite of an infected animal. Rabies does not respond to antibiotic therapy and is nearly always fatal once symptoms occur. However, because of the long incubation period (from 2 weeks to many months), prompt vaccination following exposure can prevent the disease in humans. Dogs, cats, and livestock also can be protected by periodic vaccinations.

Bats are not asymptomatic carriers of rabies. After an incubation period of 2 weeks to 6 months, they become ill with the disease for as long as 10 days. During this latter period, a rabid bat’s behavior is generally not normal—it may be found active during the daytime or on the ground incapable of flying. Most human exposures are the result of accidental or careless handling of grounded bats. Even less frequently, bats in this stage of illness may be involved in unprovoked attacks on people or pets (Brass, pers. commun.; Trimarchi et al. 1979). It is during this stage that the rabid bat is capable of transmitting the disease by biting another mammal. As the disease progresses the bat becomes increasingly paralyzed and dies as a result of the infection. The virus in the carcass is reported to remain infectious until decomposition is well advanced.

Rabies is the most important public health hazard associated with bats. Infection with rabies has been confirmed in all 40 North American species of bats that have been adequately sampled in all of the contiguous United States and in most provinces of Canada.

Bats rank third (behind raccoons and skunks) in incidence of wildlife rabies in the United States (Krebs et al. 1992). In the last 20 years, however, there have been more human rabies cases of bat origin in the United States than of any other wildlife group. Furthermore, the disease in bats is more widely distributed (in all 48 contiguous states in 1989) than in any other species. In Canada, bats also rank third (behind foxes and skunks) in the incidence of wildlife rabies. Therefore, every bat bite or contact must be considered a potential exposure to rabies. While aerosol transmission of the rabies virus from bats in caves to humans and some other mammals has been reported, this is not a likely route of infection for humans entering bat roosts in buildings in temperate North America.

Histoplasmosis – Histoplasmosis is a very common lung disease of worldwide distribution caused by a microscopic fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasma exists in nature as a saprophytic mold that grows in soil with high nitrogen content, generally associated with the guano and debris of birds (particularly starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, and chickens) and bats. Wind is probably the main agent of dispersal, but the fungus can survive and be transmitted from one site to another in the intestinal contents of bats, and also in the dermal appendages of both bats and birds. The disease can be acquired by the casual inhalation of windblown spores, but infections are more likely to result from visits to point sources of growth of the fungus. Relative to bats, such sources include bat roosts in caves, barns, attics, and belfries, and soil enriched with bat guano.

Numerous wild and domestic animals are susceptible to histoplasmosis, but bats (and perhaps the armadillo) are the only important animal vectors. Unlike bats, birds do not appear to become infected with the fungus. Both the presence of guano and particular environmental conditions are necessary for H. capsulatum to proliferate. In avian habitats, the organism apparently grows best where the guano is in large deposits, rotting and mixed with soil rather than in nests or in fresh deposits. Specific requirements regarding bats have not been described, though bat roosts with long-term infestation are often mentioned in the literature.

While histoplasmosis in the United States is particularly endemic to the Ohio-Mississippi Valley region (which is also an area with the greatest starling concentration) and areas along the Appalachian Mountains, it is also found in the lake and river valleys of other states. Outside areas with “appropriate” environmental conditions, there also occur scattered foci with high infection rates usually associated with caves inhabited by bats or birds.

When soil or guano containing H. capsulatum is physically disturbed, the spores become airborne. Persons at particular risk of histoplasmosis of bat origin include spelunkers, bat biologists, pest control technicians, people who clean out or work in areas where bats have habitually roosted, and people in contact with guanoenriched soil — such as around the foundation of a building where guano has sifted down through the walls.

Infection occurs upon inhalation of spores and can result in a variety of clinical manifestations; severity partially depends on the quantity of spores inhaled. The infection may remain localized in the lungs where it may resolve uneventfully; this is the case for about 95% of the 500,000 infections occurring annually in the United States. Such infections are identified only by the presence of a positive histoplasmin skin test and/or calcified lesions on routine radiographs. Other individuals may have chronic or progressive lung disease requiring treatment. Less severe forms of these infections may be accompanied by fever, cough, and generalized symptoms similar to a prolonged influenza. Resolution of the disease confers a degree of immunity to reinfection. In addition, resolution confers varying degrees of hypersensitivity to H. capsulatum; as a consequence, massive reinfection in highly sensitized lungs may result in a fatal acute allergic reaction.

In a small percentage of chronic histoplasmosis cases, the fungus disseminates to involve multiple organ systems and may be fatal. This form is usually seen in young children (1 year or older) and in immunocompromised adults. In recent years, systemic infections have been increasing in frequency globally as an opportunistic infection of AIDS patients. (Source: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage — 1994)

Call us at (434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975 for expert BAT REMOVAL, BAT CONTROL and BAT MANAGEMENT in the Richmond VA, Charlottesville VA and Central Virginia areas.