Scientists fight for Tennessee’s dwindling bat population

(Photo: WKRN)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – (WKRN) – Tennessee’s bat population has been threatened by a fungus which has led to the disease called White Nose Syndrome.

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, seven species of bats have been determined as on the brink of extinction in our state because of the syndrome.

White Nose Syndrome is caused by a fungus that grows on a bat’s skin including its muzzle, ears and tail.

The fungus bothers them and wakes them up from hibernation. They’ll burn the fat they stored for the winter so they’ll seek insects, which are sparse in cold months.

The bats end up starving to death or they’ll die of dehydration.

Bats are becoming extinct from White Nose Syndrome. (Photo: WKRN)

Bats are a necessary part of Tennessee’s ecosystem. They also act as a living, breathing pesticide.

“Bats are extremely useful,” said Catherine Hibbard from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They eat insects so they protect us, our crops and forests.”

Hibbard was in town for the White Nose Syndrome conference. The national convention is held once a year and this was the first year it was held at the Renaissance Hotel Downtown.

150 scientists, researchers and educators came to Nashville to learn about the disease and about ways to treat it.

After the convention let out on Thursday, attendees traveled to Bellamy Cave in Clarksville to observe the gray bat population.

“We hope to learn more about the fungus so we can find ways to treat bats that have white nose syndrome,” said Josh Campbell with the Tennessee Resource Agency. “But that’s a long ways away.”

Campbell isn’t sure how many more bats will die before there’s a cure but he encourages people in Tennessee to get bat houses.

It will give them a safe habitat and they will eat mosquitoes and other flying insects around your home.

Bats do not attack your hair or drink your blood. Most often, they are not interested in humans.

You can buy bat houses online – or you can make your own.