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Looking For Better Days in the Bat Cave

“It was shocking and sad to no longer see little brown and Northern long-eared bats in Mascot Mine."
~Jeff Lougee

As you may have read or heard recently, a new study and report by biologists at New Hampshire Fish and Game has found that White Nose Syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that attacks hibernating bats, is having devastating effects on New Hampshire’s bat population.  

The Nature Conservancy holds a conservation easement on New Hampshire’s largest known bat hibernaculum - Mascot Mine in Gorham – and has collaborated with the Department of Fish and Game Nongame Program on the long-term monitoring of the bat populations in Mascot Mine since the early 1990’s. The Conservancy also installed specially designed gates at the entrance to prohibit human disturbance of the mine but allow bats easy and safe passage. 

During a 2010 survey, White-nose syndrome was first documented in the mine. In the years since, the disease has had devastating impacts on the Mine’s bat population. 

At its height in 2008, over 1,800 bats of five species called Mascot Mine home, including little and big brown, Eastern pipistrelle, Northern long-eared, and the only known population of rare Eastern small-footed bats in the Granite State. 

In the March 2014 survey, only 27 bats were found hibernating in Mascot Mine. 

Little brown bats, which typically made up more than 90% of the population, were notably absent from the mine, as were Northern long-eared bats, the second most abundant species.  Both species have been negatively impacted by White Nose Syndrome so deeply that the Northern long-eared bat is now a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. 

Jeff Lougee, the Conservancy’s Director of Stewardship & Ecological Management, visited the mine with Fish and Game biologists during the most recent survey.  “It was shocking and sad to no longer see little brown and Northern long-eared bats in Mascot Mine. White Nose Syndrome has taken a huge toll on the bat populations, and it will take generations for them to recover. The Conservancy is proud to partner in the protection of Mascot Mine, which will be an important hibernaculum as the bat populations recover in New Hampshire over time.” 

There is good news contained in the survey, however. The three other species historically present – big brown, Eastern pipistrelle, and Eastern small-footed bat – are still hibernating in the mine.   These three are known to be less affected by White Nose Syndrome and have always been found in low numbers here.  Additionally, some bat biologists believe we have seen the worst of the disease in the Northeast, and should see populations begin to bounce back in the coming years. 

Explore New Hampshire Fish & Game’s full survey of the Granite State’s four largest hibernating colonies and how they have been affected by White Nose Syndrome.

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