Disease continues to kill more bats
MADISON — Surveys of mines and caves this year in Wisconsin show white-nose syndrome continues to ravage the state’s bat population.
The continued loss of bats, who consume many insects, will mean more bugs in the state, state Department of Natural Resources experts say.
“We’re still seeing new sites with infection and bigger declines in the numbers of bats we’re surveying in winter,” said J. Paul White, Wisconsin bat program lead with the DNR.
Pepin County recently was added to the list of locations where the disease deadly to bats has been confirmed.
Infected bats were discovered at all 60 sites DNR staff visited earlier this year. Bat populations at those locations were down significantly from past surveys, staff reported. Severe decreases in populations of hibernating bats also are showing up in the summer nighttime surveys volunteers conduct.
White-nose syndrome causes hibernating bats to frequently wake, depleting their energy and causing them to die from starvation, dehydration or exposure to the elements. It does not affect humans or other animals.
White and other Wisconsin conservation biologists said progress is being made in developing vaccines and treatments for white-nose syndrome.
Bats play an important role in Wisconsin’s ecosystems and are voracious insect eaters. A 2011 North American study estimated that bats save Wisconsin’s agriculture industry between $658 million to $1.5 billion annually in pesticide costs.
Program to promote activity
MADISON — Operators of Wisconsin’s state parks are kicking off a new initiative called OutWiGo — pronounced “out we go” — to promote good health through outdoors activities.
People will be encouraged throughout the year to visit a Wisconsin state park to participate in outdoor activities with the goal of improving their overall health and wellness.
A kickoff for the OutWiGo campaign from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at Mirror Lake State Park near Wisconsin Dells.
Various OutWiGo activities are scheduled at other state parks on May 19-20. Throughout the year OutWiGo themes, events, fun facts, and trail tips will be offered.
For more information about the campaign, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, using the keyword OutWiGo.”
From staff reports