Berkshire Woods and Waters: Help bats by reporting colonies
Since the onset of white-nose syndrome in Massachusetts, the state's population of bats has dwindled to less than one percent of what it was. They cite one abandoned mine where almost every bat hibernating over the 2008/2009 winter died from white-nose syndrome. Some 10,000 bats dropped to just 14 in the span of a single season. White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that grows on cave-hibernating bats during the winter. The growing fungus rouses the bats from hibernation, causing them to use up precious fat stores before fully waking in the spring, leading to starvation. As a result of the drastic mortality from white-nose syndrome, all species of cave-hibernating bats are listed as endangered in Massachusetts.
MassWildlife named two species of bats, the Little Brown Bat and the Big Brown Bat, which have summer colonies in Massachusetts. These colonies may be found in trees, buildings, or houses. The Little Brown Bat also hibernates in caves during the winter, where it can contract white-nose syndrome. Before white-nose syndrome occurred in Massachusetts, the Little Brown Bat was the most common bat species in the state. MassWildlife is especially interested in learning how surviving colonies of Little Brown Bats have persisted despite white-nose syndrome, including the size and location of their colonies.
This summer, they will be banding Little Brown Bats, and tagging all females with radio transmitters to help them locate maternity colonies. They will also be doing surveys, site visits to bat colonies, and monitoring any newly discovered maternity colonies to determine colony size, site ownership, and security. Monitoring long-term population changes will greatly help them understand the survival of Little Brown Bats. This work will also be used in future recovery efforts.
Don't worry about your hunting and fishing license fees going toward this bat study. According to Marion E. Larson Chief, Information & Education for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, they received a grant to study them and contractors to do the work. They simply need locations for the contractors to visit.
I hope they are successful in their recovery efforts. I miss these little critters, especially when fishing near water bodies at twilight hours. Who can forget their kamikaze style dives toward us, and our wondering if they will pull up before smacking our heads. Oh sure, some women don't miss them at all because of the rumor of them flying into and getting tangled in their hair. I wonder, is there any truth to that rumor?
Two comical events come to mind when I think about them. One occurred many years ago when my fishing buddy Jerry Zink and I were teenagers. We were bass fishing at night from a boat on Laurel Lake. In those days, we rented an old clunker wooden boat from Bing Miller and would row and fish all night. It was fun. We would cast our plugs into the darkness, hear them plop into the water and then work the plugs toward us. There was concern when we cast out the plugs and did not hear the plop. That usually meant that we were too close to shore and the plug landed in a tree. Barring that event, every now and then we would hear a loud splash and we would set the hook. We couldn't see whose plug was hit so both of us reacted. One of us usually landed a good sized largemouth bass.
One night, while reeling in my plug, I sensed something was wrong. The plug didn't gurgle, sputter, pop or wobble like it should. After reeling in and holding the rod up in the dim moon light, I could see a leaf hanging from the plug, which happens occasionally. I was deeply engrossed in our conservation (probably about girls), when I reached up to pull the leaf off. I missed it, time and again. Frustrated, I asked Jerry to shine the flashlight on it. You guessed it. A bat was hanging from the plug and every time I reached to remove it, the bat would fly up in the air with the plug. To this day, Jerry and I still chuckle about that.
The other time was about 15 years ago. One evening, a buddy Doug Yates from Dalton and I were flyfishing the East Branch of the Westfield River in Chesterfield. Doug was fishing downstream from me, and over the sound of the river, I could hear him shouting. He appeared to be fighting a fish and because he was shouting to catch my attention, I assumed he had a good one on. But something was wrong. Instead of his rod bending down toward the water, it was bent up and the line going in a circle over his head.
Well, you guessed it again. While his fly was mid-air from a cast, a bat came along and snatched it. Now that's what I call a good fly imitation! Every now and then, Doug and I chuckle over that, too.
Gosh, I hope my fishing stories involving bats haven't ended.
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